The Fishing Trip
This piece, one of my first published pieces of writing, first appeared in McCall's Magazine in the late eighties or so, around autumn, and appeared on the stands just one day after I had accepted a job as a head baker in a new age health food café. I dedicate this piece to my father, Nathan Goldman, who taught me more things than he knew (but fishing was not one of them) I also dedicate this to the spirit of dads overall - whether they are fisherman, or bowlers, repair guys, fixers, or bake cake and do laundry and read poetry to their daughters or teach their sons how to be real that rare thing: real, authentic men who were gentlemen and gentle men.
THE FISHING TRIP
They're all here - this annual assemblage of males. Each year they gather for what has become almost ritual: my father, my brothers, and some friends of each, spanning ages from 28-68. A sundry bunch of males gather in my driveway in front of the house, getting fear and goods together, arming themselves for three glorious days in the woods, beside the lake and fire.
The husband is almost irritable with anticipation. I rattle on in the background, or so it seems to me, about buying some milk for the weekend ('not a whole quart, you understand..I mean, if you are going anyway for the weekend and besides, I don't drink much milk anyway..'), about the cats, ('they're good company") and who I'll drop in on this weekend. ("I have places to go too, you know, people to visit..not to worry."). The feminine voice, lilting and falling, is nothing to him now. It comes as if from a great distance. It is thoughts of tackle and rods, nets, and reels, a penknife 'that must be somewhere', a khaki-coloured hat for the bugs, and the Shetland sweater with no elbows the cats sleep on. Perfect props for a Hemingway getaway.
I watch city men: office men, salesmen, musicians, engineer and lawyer turn into fishermen. They are jovial with being free, being boyish. There are the customary jokes of who has too much stuff, who hates baiting the hook, who catches the most fish and who always lands the largest trout entirely by fluke.
The air is crisp this autumn morning, and I stand on the perimeter of the activity and watch the flurry of packing and last minute details tended to. I would offer advice but truth be known, fishing interests me just slightly less than football. But something else runs through my mine now. I am fascinated by their own sense of cohesiveness, achieved just moments before the actual departure and long before the weekend itself begins. They need each other - and they don't care a bit really, whether they catch scores of fish or none at all.
Each man plays a part - provides another component to the collective friendship. Between them, there is a rapport that only seems to occur outside the city, outside the offices, and Saturday night foursomes at a favorite Sichuan restaurant, and even the games of squash, and backgammon matches. It's all at once the same rapport that beer commercials elude to and die hard feminists scorn, and yet, something beyond all that. For it is real and rare and obviously worth driving some 400 miles into the bush to get to. These are men who spend their days as husbands, and fathers, colleagues and competitors: a whole lifetime of being adults. And I can't find it in me to begrudge or belittle them one bit. For it IS possible to share in another's joy though be no part of it. For if one truly loves another, it is a generosity that is innate.
I will never voice what I feel as I watch them go - there is not a phrase or an utterance that could properly describe all the elements present. I simply take in the evolving tableau. I get quieter and more still. My father sits beside my brother in the lead car - and I feel tears threaten the smile on my face. He is the oldest fisherman. My brother whispers in my ear - don't worry. I will watch out for Dad.
An inexplicable rush of love swells through me. I watch them go: daughter to one, sister to two, and a friend of a sort to the remaining. With each kiss given and received I change roles. I am child, sister, friend. I cherish them all - this group of boy-men. Even the unwitting failure to notice me is nothing.
The last car door slams shut and an assortment of cotton duck hats tilt out the window. Hands wave. I turn away from the driveway. It is early fall and they're off - the sight and smell of it all!
Other Writing Features: