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Loss Leaves Sad Heart in Its Wake

I suspect the worst: My loyal husband's fantasies harbor a trim little rival. When we load up the station wagon for the weekly trip to the Grace Chapel recycler, Hugh grows pensive and dreamy-eyed as we sail over the Gunpowder Bridge.

If a low-slung speedboat slices through calm waters, his eye follows its curling wake far into the distance.

He grips the wheel and says nothing. Wifely intuition tells me that silence speaks an aching truth.

If Hugh has a broken heart, I have no one to blame but M. E.

When we were married, he selected a blue-hulled Dixie speedster for a wedding present and followed it over the Newton assembly line from plywood through carpet and upholstery .

Launching was a meticulous birthing. Every week thereafter, he polished and groomed his boat. The hull was cleaner than the family car.

From early spring through late fall, he sat poised on the back step, keys a-dangle waiting for me to gather up dog and picnic gear and go for a meander upstream.

I must confess-I didn't love it.

I lived part of my preadolescent years at Lakeside Beach and knew the tarnished joys of boat ownership.

Boats, like simpering mistresses, demand attention. There's always another expense, another chore.
Something needs replacing, relicensing, reconditioning. And in the end, a boat is just one more possession that requires cleaning. 

Ours was parked in the open. It was the victim of birds, insects, ducks, and intruders. Thieves stole its sound system. Mallards laid eggs in the cuddy. The rest of the damage was the work of sun and waves.

I tried to share Hugh's enthusiasm for cruising. I smiled engagingly on lumpy, breezy rides to the nether end of Lake Hickory, but my attention lay elsewhere.

On an ill-fated day, I took out permanent separation papers between wife and boat. I was steering rapidly toward the 127 bridge when Hugh sang out the magic word, "Ducks."

Instantly, Sunny leaped to the starboard seat and over the side. Luckily, I was veering to port, which saved him tail amputation and a severe punk haircut.

Hugh flashed into the drink as I maneuvered into a tight circle to rescue my damp family. With quivering knees I hauled in dog, then Dad.

Hugh recognized my concern for the 18-pound survivor and muttered appropriate "there-theres."

But the damage was done. Forever after, I sat in that accursed albatross and hugged Sunny to prevent another Olympic dive.

In time, Hugh gave up on his Dixie darling and advertised it for sale. I can't call him a sore loser. He knows how I feel about our furry kid and to what lengths I would go to spare him harm.

Yet, echoing through Hugh's husbandly heart is the whispser of a past love who refuses to sink to the bottom.
Her name was Dixie.

Charlotte Observer
"Catawba Valley Neighbors,"
June 23, 1993




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Mary Ellen Snodgrass Tel/Fax: (828) 324-0155