As my 18-year-old son prepares to graduate from high school in just a couple of weeks, a stroll down memory lane led to this piece I’d written six years ago. There’s such magic in seeing the connection between those boyhood moments and his emergence into manhood…
When Tucker was a little guy, he’d fashion fishing poles out of sticks and string and hang his “rods” over the back of the kitchen sofa. A bite from a big one, would require great effort and lots of groaning until he successfully reeled in his imaginary catch.
His first “real” rod was red, all of three feet long, with Mickey Mouse on the reel and a little, yellow rubber fish attached to the line.
It wasn’t long until the rod without a hook was no longer satisfactory, and Tuck graduated to a new real rod, hook and all. He learned how to put on worms and release the fish he’d caught, and every vacation, his fishing pole was the first thing in the car.
But as he grew older, his interest in fishing waned, replaced by more active endeavors like skateboarding, biking and soccer.
Yet on this Memorial Day, there he was casting a line way out into the water. “I haven’t seen him fish in ages,” I said to Lee who was sitting nearby, changing the lure on his rod.
“Look at the picture on the camera and you’ll know why,” he said.
I turned on the camera and saw the picture they’d taken just before releasing the bass my husband had caught.
“No wonder he’s inspired,” I said. But by late afternoon, all he’d caught were five small perch.
“He won’t let these fish go,” my daughter, Andie complained, staring into the bucket where the fish were swimming around.
“I’m cooking them for our dinner,” Tuck said, flipping his hair out of his big, excited eyes. The day’s sun had lured a few new freckles out on his nose.
“Dinner?” I asked, thinking of our nearly packed car and desire to get back home.
“Yeah. I’ve made dinner, but that food was from the store. This is dinner I caught,” he said.
Looking into the wide eyes of my soon to be thirteen-year-old son, I knew this was a significant event.
“OK,” I said. “Go ask Daddy to show you how to clean the fish.”
My daughter, Andie was distraught. “You can’t kill those fish,” she cried. “I won’t eat them.”
“You love fish,” Tucker reminded her.
“But those are from the store,” she said, prompting a discussion on food sources.
(Later she “accidently” let one go, but Lee helped her catch a replacement, which she reluctantly put in the bucket with the others.)
As Lee and Tuck covered the picnic table with newspaper and sharp knives, Andie hovered nearby. She squealed when Tucker cut the heads off the still wriggling fish, but his squared shoulders seemed to say, Look at me providing sustenance for my family.
Five little perch isn’t a lot of sustenance, but with beans and left over pasta, it amounted to a meal.
We each had a couple three-inch fillets that Tuck had dredged in milk and breadcrumbs and fried in butter. Andie, who wasn’t going to eat her little friends, pleaded with everyone to share a bit more off their plate.
The fish was truly delicious. But even more delicious was witnessing my boy take a step toward manhood, swelling with pride as he demonstrated his ability to care for those he loves.
His interests may have changed, but that little boy wanting to care for the ones he loves still lives deep inside him.
Many Memorial Day blessings to you,