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The Memory Boat

How cherished memories keep this boat that has spanned generations afloat for years of summer cabin fun.

How cherished memories keep this boat that has spanned generations afloat for years of summer cabin fun.

By Christy Heitger-Ewing photo12 “How old is this boat?” my son Kyler asked me as we spread out our beach towels on the blue vinyl seats, hot to the touch from the intense midday sun. “Oh, gosh, let me think,” I said as I quickly did the math in my head. “Hmm, 27 years.” I scratched my chin and wondered, Could that be right? My parents bought it when I was 16 so, yeah. “It doesn’t look it,” Kyler said. That was because we had maintained it through the years, having replaced torn cushions, broken propellers and defective horns. We had updated the radio system, purchased a new depth finder, and fixed the ladder on the swim platform. We had regularly waxed the hull, touched up the paint, and teak-oiled the wooden sections. We had taken great care of it because through the years, it had offered us so much in return. “I’ll bet you have a ton of cool memories because of it,” Kyler said as he dealt the Uno cards. He was right about that. I sat back, closed my eyes, and tilted my face skyward. As the sun’s rays warmed my cheeks, I reflected on the various ways this boat had shaped my life. This was the activity boat, fully loaded and ready to rumble. Stocked with squirt guns, diving rings, Frisbees and footballs; water skis, wiffle balls, inner tubes and noodles; card games, volleyballs, jump ropes and sunscreen, we were prepared for any brand of fun. This was the rescue boat that aided distressed boaters who had run out of gas, cracked a prop, or flooded the motor. This was the fun boat that soaked eager passengers who were begging for adventure. This was the love boat where I smooched my husband at sunset after exchanging wedding vows on the dock. This was the fast boat that had caused countless baseball caps to take flight in the wind. This was the slow boat that lulled children to sleep whenever we meandered the perimeter of the shoreline. This was the fishing boat where my boys learned how to bait a hook, hold a pole and net a walleye. This was the school boat where my sons practiced tying a line, navigating a river and de-weeding a propeller. This was the bonding boat where, through every stage of life, Mom and I stretched out in the sun and gabbed about makeup and fashion, boyfriends and marriage, motherhood and sleep deprivation. This was the party boat where our family shared cheese-and-crackers and sweet cherry picnics. This was the tour boat that idled down river as occupants snapped pictures of otters, eagles and other cabin creatures before disembarking at the gas dock to purchase popsicles and ice cream sandwiches. This was the duck-duck-goose boat that taught cabin visitors the difference between ducks and geese (not to mention swans, loons and gulls). This was the durable boat that had battled pop-up thunderstorms, pounding hail and 6-foot rollers. This was the therapy boat where I sat for hours on end the first summer after Mom died, sobbing, journaling and holding tight to years of precious cabin memories. “Wanna take the boat down river to gas up?” Kyler asked as he scooped up the Uno cards. I clicked the ignition key to the right. The gauge read three-quarters full. “We don’t really need gas,” I said. Kyler’s face fell. “I take it you’re in the mood for ice cream?” I asked. Kyler grinned and nodded. “Go get your brother,” I said as I flipped on the blower. This was the memory boat, and it was time to make more. Christy Heitger-Ewing thinks that if everyone could experience life at a cabin, the world would be a happier place.