Saturday, December 16, 2006

A Childhood Memory – from one of our teachers

When I was a young girl my family lived in Illinois, in the United States. It was always very cold there during the winter. One winter my father decided that we would all go on an adventure. He told my mother to go to our schools and ask the teachers to give us enough schoolwork to keep us busy for a month and to pack our summer clothes. He said we’d be leaving in the early hours of the next morning for a trip to Florida.

My father put our boat on a trailer and attached it to the back of the car. Before dawn, he woke us up and all six of us piled into the car for the start of our journey. The weather was cold and it was snowing as we drove away from our house. It took us two days to drive to Florida with the weather becoming warmer with every mile that we drove south. Soon we were drinking freshly squeezed orange juice and wearing our summer clothes. The cold weather and snow were far behind us.

My father had given our small boat the name ATHA – it was an acronym of the names of the children in our family - Andrea, Therese (that’s me), Holly, and Anthony. It wasn’t very big, but we were comfortable. We launched the boat in Miami and spent about a month cruising around the various islands that make up the Florida Keys. During the day we swam in the warm, crystal clear waters and at night we slept on deck under the stars.

Around Christmas time we moored our boat at a dock were there was a filling station (petrol station) and a small grocery store. The owner of the grocery store lived behind his shop and inside his shop was a very large salt-water fish tank filled with beautiful fish. A navy research vessel was moored at the same dock, right behind our boat. The crew of their boat was especially friendly, and they had two unusual members of their crew – two harbour seals! These seals were specially trained to help with underwater research. We enjoyed watching the seals swim and play in the water near our boat. The crew of the boat had taught the seals to climb up on the research vessel using a special landing deck on the back made just for the seals. They were quite tame, but their handlers told us not to get too close as the seals occasionally became aggressive and might bite.

One morning we got up early and prepared our breakfast – bread, butter, jam, milk, cereal, coffee and juice. It had been a bit chilly that night and we had put up the canvas cover of the boat. We were all enjoying our breakfast when we heard something make a big spash! Then BOOM! The canvas covering of our boat began to collapse. I peeked out from behind the fabric and was surprised to see that one of the seals had decided to join us for breakfast!

The seal was wet and slid right down the canvas and onto the table! My mother grabbed the camera and got onto the dock to take some pictures. The seal was flopping, slipping and sliding all over! We managed to release the canvas cover and tried to help the seal. By now the seal was smeared in butter and jam, our breakfast was everywhere. In the midst of all the commotion, the crew of the research vessel came and rescued their seal. Our breakfast was ruined but none of us cared because, ‘How often do you have a seal land on your table?’

We cleared up the mess and spent the day exploring the surrounding area. We decided to return to the same dock to spend the night as it was Christmas Eve. We bought some food for dinner at the small grocery store and my sisters and brother and I looked at the colourful fish swimming in the tanks while my parents visited with the owner of the shop.

It was going to be a different Christmas that year as we were not at home. There wasn’t a tree and we weren’t going to exchange gifts. We would only have Christmas stockings which we hung from hooks on the sides of the boat. My father turned on the radio and we all snuggled down listening to Christmas carols.

Around midnight we heard someone walking on the dock towards our boat. We looked out and found the shop owner. He asked if we would like to see something very special. Curious, we all climbed out of the boat and followed the man into his shop. There, in the dimly lit shop next to the beautiful fish tank was a smaller aquarium that contained some green seaweed and one large sea horse. We peered into the tank and were astonished to see that the seahorse was giving birth! How amazing and how truly perfect to be happening at midnight on Christmas Eve.

A true story by Mrs Khadija


Mrs Alea said...

I remember making daisy chains with my auntie. Have you made daisy chains?? Perhaps my childhood was normal & boring compared to yours but I certainly made up for it after I came to Libya!

Anonymous said...

...and that made you into a brave, adventurous soul, unafraid to sometimes risk it bigtime! How magnificent your life has panned out. Some people make their life and others, life makes them. from Barbara in Miami!