being eleven

I should remember being eleven . It was only yesterday , after all , if yesterday is about a half-century long or more . But , I don’t .  Well , there is one moment during eleven that I remember : the Friday that John Fitzgerald Kennedy was shot .  But , the rest of eleven must have faded away somehow . That happens . Years do that sometimes .

I was reminded , recently , of how it is to be eleven .  I was floating on the surface of a glittering Polish lake on a warm day in a bulky  old wooden rented rowboat . There was water sloshing in the bilge and we were weighted down to the gunnels . I  was gripping  an abusively  heavy  oar with two hands , rowing , trying to hold up my end of an unspoken bargain .

I was sitting next to an eleven year old who had hold of the other ponderous  oar and was rowing steadily and strongly , putting me to shame .  He wasn’t weakening as we struggled to move that old lumbering rowboat gently down the stream . Well , we were fighting a constant wind-driven current ;  unforgivingly constant slaps of  stubborn lakey waves were nudging  the boat . It wasn’t an easy row , anyhow . I kept telling that little observation of mine to Ada , trying  to avoid making  my simple statement  sound like a whining complaint .Boys in boat

My eleven year old shipmate , Mikolaj , was holding his own , keeping up with my every pull on that burdensome  oar . Mikolaj was  rowing with youthful determination and energy  . I have to admit that  I was weakening as  Mikolaj seemed to be gaining strength . The old grey mare , she / he  ain’t what she/he  used to be , I guess . Ah , to be eleven again !BOYS 1

Ada was sitting aft , in the back  of the wretched old  rotting   tub . Ada was in  what we old salt sailors call the stern . Ada was astern , watching the two of us row , and translating the watchman’s calls .  Mikolaj’s younger bro , Antosh , was manning the bow . I put him on watch and he took his job seriously . Directions came , in Polish of course , ordering adjustments right from our course , or adjustments left .  Antosh had his eyes peeled and on the horizon .

Ada took an oar for awhile . Mikolaj took both oars for awhile . I took both oars for awhile , too . But the old dinghy moved best under command of both the eleven year old and the old man  together at the oars .

FDR said that to reach a port we must set sail , not tie at anchor , not drift .  I wonder what exciting future ports an eleven year old will visit . Many , and interesting ones , no doubt .  Poland anchors 012

Things do not happen . Things are made to happen . Strength and courage are not enough without purpose and direction . ———  John F. Kennedy

3 Comments

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3 responses to “being eleven

  1. You’re helping to create wonderful childhood memories that they will always remember – whether they recall they were 11 at the time or not.

  2. That’s a great quote at the end. I hadn’t heard that before.

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