On The Waterfront

I am surprised by how deeply I am affected by the news; Carl Davis is dead. My relationship with Carl Davis was a oblique one, the way it is with most parents of your friends. You get to know them not so much because of direct contact, but as a result of just being there. It's a sideways kind of thing, this relationship with other people's parents, especially when you're a kid.

Still the strong feelings I have about Carl Davis's death puzzle me. All I know is the feelings I have are pulling back to my childhood. I feel both sad and happy about the prospect of seeing the family, is what I tell my brother, Jon, in an e-mail about the memorial service. As the next youngest sibling to me, he also spent a lot of time with the Davis family, especially with their daughters, Debby and Cindy.

Though in some ways we were very different, our families were very close. Debby and Cindy spent nights at our house and I often stayed at theirs. They taught us how to eat holy eggs and we taught them about eating French toast with sugar. Our parents also saw a lot of each other. Deb's dad was trained as an electrical engineer. He sold and serviced boats from Davis Marina during his summers in Rangeley and from Rumford the rest of the year. My dad did medicine in New Jersey and came to Rangeley on the weekends during the summer. Their similarities much outweighed their differences; we had something special with the Davis's.

I like to say that Debby and Cindy taught us everything we know about the water. They knew how to moor boats, mix gas, fix engines, rig sailboats, tie knots and haul boats. They not only water skied competitively and raced sunfish, they taught people, like my brothers and me, how to do these things. Though they never complained, I always remember them working really hard, especially Debby. Still, the kids had a lot of freedom and, as a result, we did too. We went out in motor boats at night, we teamed up to race in the local sailboat regattas and we traveled with our friends to water skiing events. As often as we could, we attended movies in town together. Once we began to graze the teenage years, we spent our evenings at the Pine Tree Restaurant, playing pin ball in the side room and keeping track of the other young people in town, the cars they were driving and with whom they were going out. One evening, our parents, who were all at our house for a party, sent us to see "Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte." It was an Alfred Hitchcock film and we came home terrified. From then on, one small scream from one of us would send shivers through the rest. Though I never visited Debby during the school year, one spring she actually came on a vacation with us. We all loved Debby, but my youngest brother Hiram, at the age of 3 or 4 felt so close to her, he kept asking her to marry him.

It is an especially cold for the middle of May when it comes time for the funeral. A fairly large group of people, who have found their way to the gravesite, are crowded together under the umbrellas they've brought as protection from the mixed rain and snow. Though we stand on a high spot towards the rear of the cemetery, the sky is so thickly fogged we can hardly see the mountains or the lake. My parents are here, as well as a number of their friends. All five of Carl and Peggy's children are present. They have assembled to honor both of their parents, their mother having died years ago. They stand out in front of a large station wagon from which some music plays. I am sure this car belonged to Carl, as it's just the kind he always drove. It reminds me that Debby and I were allowed to drive his car around the overgrown lot behind the two story house and shop that served as marina in order to watch birds. As a child from suburbia, I got to do many things I might never have done.

I watch Debby and Cindy deliver their eulogies and I think about Carl Davis. How kind he was to my parents and my brothers. How welcoming he was to me as a sometime-member of his own family. I hear his greeting words, "Well, if it isn't Pammy," and suddenly I can't wait to see his children, who are my friends. How strongly linked I feel with the Davis family and how thankful I am, for the important difference they all made.

Posted by Pamela at March 4, 2004 7:08 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?