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The Greatest Gifts



I never would have imagined that I would get teary upon receiving a voltmeter.  But teary eyed I was upon opening my Christmas gift from Joey, a toolbox full of all the necessary tools to be a novice marine electrician.

About sixteen years ago Joey and I met in a lab for Structural Geology at the College of Charleston in South Carolina.  As he recounted some story about a trip to a rodeo, I thought to myself, oddly, that he was the kind of guy I would never want to marry.  He just seemed too southern.  As my last year of college progressed though, I came to know him better and became smitten with his humorous storytelling and artistic insight.  And then began the adventures.  We spent the next few years together, yet, often, geographically apart.  We both honored each other’s need for independence and personal discovery.  When together, we spent time learning to sail and gallivanting in whatever woods we could find.

After a few years of traipsing back and forth across the country and living in various situations, we ended up together on Andros Island in the Bahamas.  We worked for International Field Studies (IFS), a non-profit that operated a field station and two sailboats for environmental education field studies.  The sailing program ran by a system where a captain trains the first mate for a year. Then after passing the necessary test, the first mate takes the place of the captain.  So, after a year Joey became captain of Deja Vu and I was his first mate.  And then eventually I became captain, and he stepped off the boat to another one down the beach until I fulfilled my commitment.  We then went to work for Tiamo, a resort dedicated to sustainability.  Tiamo was paradise, nestled into the woods and only accessible by boat.  The relentless hours of resort work and the isolated location soon took its toll and I longed for some exposure to the outside world.  Joey was supportive and we made our way to Bellingham for what was supposed to be three years.  That was eight years ago.

Our years of getting lost in the woods and finding ourselves again, surviving near catastrophe in gale force winds, and weathering our own personal storms had given us a strong foundation.  We knew that we could count on each other.  A mutual respect existed from having had depended on one another through so many trials and tribulations.  It was always apparent to me that Joey believed I could do anything and he gave me the space and encouragement to do so.

And then we had kids.  I spent most of our first trips at sea, with Pearl as an infant, down below, holding her while she slept, listening to Joey’s every move up above, and planning what I would do in case Joey went overboard or the boat started to sink.  These past few years we have had many boating adventures in sailboat and canoe.  I learned to relax a bit and enjoyed myself.  But I often found myself breastfeeding and singing songs, while Joey did the majority of the boat work.  As the stress mounted while we prepared for this upcoming voyage, I began to hear Joey repeatedly comment that it was going to be all up to him.

The first years of motherhood can be a haze I believe.  I went from being pregnant, to breastfeeding, to being pregnant, to breastfeeding again.  For five years, my body was not my own.  Recently, I decided it was time to wean Juniper, so that we would all get a full night’s rest.  I know that we will not have more children. So, it was heartbreaking to let go.  But let go I did, and now I feel as though I have woken up.  I have a new energy and I am rediscovering all that I can do.

So, when I heard Joey’s concerns, I decided that I want to be the marine electrician.  When I was captain of Deja Vu, I loved wiring.  I wanted to install new fans and change lights, just so I could use the fun tools, cut the wires, and crimp the connectors.  When I mentioned my thoughts to Joey, he sort of chuckled and didn’t seem to take it seriously.

When it was time to go look at the boat, Joey didn’t want to go.  He wanted me to see it and he trusted me to make good decisions.  I was eager to get a break from home. I was ready to find my way again.  By being the one to check out the boat, I would set the stage for this to be a joint venture, allowing us to depend on one another fully.  And his greatest gifts, his understanding of all of this and his faith in me, I discovered when I opened that toolbox wrapped up in a chart of Long Island Sound.



The BEST holidays

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