The Trifecta di Connor
26 August 2008 | Levanta, Italy
First mate Ziggy MacKenzie
The Trifecta di Connor
Life on board appears filled with many little rituals, which over time eke into your family's life. Rituals in the eyes' of strangers, but for those of us in the moment, they become our memories, our fondest moments, and our glimpses of what we dreamed this journey would really be.
Months before we set off while I was hashing out the details of my sabbatical at work, a co-worker and dear friend, Tova, asked me very pointedly, "what do you want to get out of this trip?" I never forget that day, for it caused me to surface three very clear reasons that until that moment I didn't know I had defined.
1. John and I wanted to give our kids, Connor and Jenny, experiences and memories that would shape their actions, thoughts and decisions for the rest of their lives.
2. Time for John and me to reconnect as a couple and accomplish a shared goal and make the dream a reality.
3. Give myself some time to do what I love - read, travel, explore, and see the arts.
Today, we watched as some of the simplest rituals, some of the simplest moments became lasting memories as Connor achieved a never before achieved trifecta - win, place and show.
We started with the ritual of games. When we packed (and over packed), we loaded up on games - cards, UNO, Skippo, Phase 10, chess, backgammon, checkers, crib, brain teasers, puzzles. I have long loved to play games, as have the rest of the family, but John and I make it a rule, that we very rarely play against each other as neither can stand to lose to the other. Crib was one of those games that I love to play, but until this trip John avoided playing with me. This last Christmas, under a tree filled with gifts destined for life on Windancer, I received my favourite Christmas gift - a cribbage board from John. Even though he (in the past) loathed playing against me, he gave me a gift that he knew would make me happy and something we could do in the many hours just the family would be aboard. Under the tutelage of Uncle Bob, Jenny quickly learned all the combos adding to 15 and 31. In the recent past she has skunked not only John and me, but BOTH John and me in the same game. Games are part of boat life.
Scrabble is another game that has its place aboard Windancer. I have challenged most of our guests and relished in winning (usually). It isn't that I have a great vocabulary, but learned at the hands of our contractor to play the board, not my letters. Last night Connor and I dusted off the scrabble, yanked out the dictionary and began. Not only did Connor beat me, but also he scored a whopping 294 points with words like EX, QAID, ZOEA and UNCHAINS. He played brilliantly, searching the board for triple letter and word spots to lay the highest point letters. The first of the trifecta - WIN.
This morning, we stumbled across a gem of a town, Portavenere, just outside of Spezia. Under a black and white striped church from the 13th century, the thin multi-coloured homes line the marina. Hidden behind the homes runs the main street, which houses olive, pesto and wine boutiques. From the cobbler's store emanates the succulent aroma of leather and inside the most beautiful bags hang over the hand made shoes. Further down the way we see the pesto/cheese/olive oil vending machine, in case you have a hankering for the delicacies and arrive when the stores are closed. On the way to the church where a cat sleeps under the altar you come across Byron's Grotto dedicated to the great author who lived here. As is our usual ritual when we come to a town in the morning, I found a café and ordered breakfast - cappuccino, brioche and jus presse (freshly squeezed orange juice). This morning, Connor asked if he too could have a coffee. After adding the requisite sugar to his cappuccino Connor relished in his first coffee. The second of the trifecta - in the quaintest PLACE, a hidden gem, Connor become my partner in this morning ritual.
(As an aside, for those of you familiar with Connor's often endless prattling, imagine it on fast forward as the caffeine jag kicked in. As we wandered the quiet streets and tucked into boutiques and the quiet of the church, there was Connor literally hopping, picking up his sister, bouncing off the ancient walls, all the while spewing facts - all accurate facts, but at times totally unrelated to the moments at hand. Ahhh, the power of the coco bean.)
Later today, we sailed the coast of the Cinqueterra, a series of five very isolated towns linked by narrow walkways and home to man-made terraces laden with vines heavy with grapes and olive trees. Unable to anchor in any of these protected bays, we continued to Lavanto where we anchored just outside the beach area. After swimming and completing our other rituals (homework, blogging and photo archiving), we sat down for an Italian dinner aboard Windancer - pasta, bocconcini salad, fruit, pesto and wine. (Today, while visiting in Portavenere, we purchased the most exquisite pesto from an elderly Italian gentleman who worked the front of the store while his wife made fresh batches in the back. We also bought what looked like a giant pizza without any sauces, that is actually pasta that you cut into 5cm squares and cook for 2 minutes. The result is a bready-type pasta that comes to life under a drizzle of pesto, olive oil or other sauces.)
Now, for those of you who have hosted Connor for dinner, you may be familiar with his food peccadilloes - neither pasta nor rice. But tonight, Connor choose to try the unknown and ate not a piece of pasta, but actually 2 helpings of weird flat pizza type pasta. Trifecta number three - Connor SHOWS his courage and looks his fear of pasta straight in the eye.
These simple moments - a scrabble game, café in the square, pasta on board -rituals to outsiders, but not to us. These are our memories, our triumphs. These are our quiet ways in which we subtly shape our children's experiences and, with any hope, their futures.
Dedicated to Connor for trying, to Tova for asking and to Sandra, Richard and Meghan Mary Barbara for playing a part in our games.