I’ve recently adopted a boat.
It was in pretty sad condition, having floated (lower and lower each year) utterly neglected at the dock by my parents’ house.
It took some bailing, and I found thousands of small translucent shrimp flitting in the bilge water. Dad helped, taking the pictures, and then we borrowed some oars and rowed it over to the ramp so we could check it over, repair and repaint.
“Come on, George” he said.
“Woof,” I replied. “Who brought that bloody dog?” We laughed. “I definitely would be George, wouldn’t I?” I asked.
“Oh, yes,” he said.
“Does that make you Julian?” He groaned.
We paddled for awhile, sitting low in the water of the mill pond, moving slowly past a little island constructed of half-sunken boats, grown over with moss.
“And how did that song go?” He asked. I thought, then remembered and sang it out.
“Yo ho yo ho, a pirate’s life for me.”
In our shared vocabulary, we had two references for this experience: the Famous Five books and the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland. Dad had read the books as a child, and passed them on to me – I found them foreign and fascinating, from my bunkbed in Southern California. We’d gone to Disneyland a thousand times when I was young – and it is this, for all its corporate, manufactured nature – that I recall most clearly as a Thing We Loved Together. Our whole three-person family piling one little boat, moving along its track through a bayou of pirates and cannonballs, past heaps of shiny plastic gold, with the ceiling painted with stars and sounds piped in of chirruping insects and rigging creaks, past the animatronic pirates with realistically dirty feet.
These memories stay with us, cue us into one another across years and miles and selves – our child selves, our parent selves, all the people we have ever been setting off for an adventure.