Friday, June 22, 2012

To be a child again

I never want to grow up. There is a part of me that will be forever young.

To celebrate summer, I went horseback riding on a prancing pony aboard the carousel at Battleship Cove in Fall River, Mass.

Housed in a majestic Victorian pavilion perched over Heritage State Park, the carousel offers panoramic views of the harbor and fleet of World War II ships.

With a look of pure bliss on my face, I circled the waterfront and galloped back in time to that place in childhood, where my parents waved to me on each successive rotation.

Growing up in Southern New England, I spent many delightful summer days on this carousel at Lincoln Amusement Park in nearby Dartmouth.

Built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company in 1920, Carousel #54 was the crown jewel of Lincoln Park for 70 years.

In 1991 the park foundered, as its owner flailed for capital to keep it afloat. However, a group of Fall River business leaders lobbied to bring the carousel to Battleship Cove, and the community rallied around the purchase, refurbishing it at a cost of $250,000.

Consequently, the carousel is not only a fond memory but a real and tangible destination, where children of all ages can take a magical spin.   

Yet even more evocative of my youth is our summer house by the Sakonnet in Tiverton, R.I.

I still remember the joy I felt that first day at Fogland, looking through child’s eyes at the private beach that would become our playground.

My brother and I raced each other down the shoreline. When we reached the cliffs, we gazed up at the magnificent jutting rock and slowly climbed the path which wound its way up the steep slope.

We could hardly believe our eyes. Surrounded on three sides by the shimmering river, we had a bird’s-eye view of stately Portsmouth mansions with well-trimmed lawns, the Sakonnet Point Lighthouse in Little Compton and the open rolling seas beyond.

Grandfather and I used to stroll arm-in-arm along the wet sand, as the receding tide let us pass. A big man with warm brown eyes set into a handsome rugged face, he walked with a slight limp but was very strong.

No one loved the sea more than Grandfather. He knew every good fishing spot along the coastline and was respected for this wisdom.

Overturning wet rocks, we’d search for bait; and an agitated crab would grope for cover. Grandfather would carefully grip the back of the shell and deposit the many-legged creature into the pocket of his navy-blue sweatshirt.

A half-hour later we’d return with jumping, bulging pockets to the summer place.

Thirty years ago he left us, yet I marked his birthday this past week, as always.

Sometimes when I walk along the seashore alone, the wind caresses my face, and I feel him beside me. My ten-year-old hands flip over a stone, and a crab scrambles; but we let this one get away.

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