They are walking ahead of me, hand in hand. Both tall and slender. Different shades of blond. Long legs on the left striding along while the shorter legs on the right skip and hop and scurry to keep up. The taller one has dirty blond hair, curly and short. Broad shoulders, sunburn at the back of the neck. The shorter one has longer, nearly white-blond hair, just curling at the ends. There is a hint of color on the backs of his little calves.
Bill is carrying the fishing pole, Alex carries the "tackle box" – a zip loc bag with a couple of daubers and some little hooks. The pole is older than all of us put together. It was Bill’s grandfather’s, and then Bill’s, and now Alex will use it. The reel is brand new. There are worms in some dirt in a little plastic tub on top of the stroller. Julia rides – the only one allowed the luxury. I push the stroller, and watch my two boys, my two men, ahead.
The morning is slightly breezy but you can feel the coming heat, and the humidity has already made all our hair damp. The infrequent breezes tickle the warm dampness at the backs of our necks with cooling fingers and then are gone, and we know it will be another scorcher.
We are walking to Gorton’s Pond. It is just down the road, kind of, from where we live. Bill used to walk miles to go fishing there when he was a kid. Alex won’t have that hardship. Bill and I have gone fishing in the canoe there too, as Alex will one day.
This morning we reach the sandy beach area at one end. Bill and Alex cross to the shady part at the other end; I struggle to push the stroller through the dry sand and finally give up, turn the stroller around, and pull it.
Bill shows Alex how to put a worm on the hook, "the worms help us catch the fish, buddy" and shows him how to cast. "You put your thumb on the button, and bring the pole back, and then swing it around and letgoofthebutton when the pole gets right HERE." The hook and worm, and the yellow and red dauber, arc across the quiet, almost still water and plunk down about thirty feet away. (Maybe more, maybe less – I have a hard time judging distances across the open water.) Bill is crouched at the water’s edge, one arm around Alex. Both big hands and both little hands grip the metal fishing pole. Alex watches his hands. Bill watches the dauber and tells Alex what he should be looking for.
"You watch the dauber, Alex. Alex, watch the dauber…and when you see it move – like that – keep watching…when it moves again, you LIKE THAT you JERK the pole and then reel. Reel buddy. That’s right. Keep reeling. Keep reeling. You’ve got a FISH! Keep reeling!"
Alex’s first fish. A little five inch sunfish. At some point before this morning Bill said he wanted Alex’s first fish to be really special – like, oh, a Tuna or a Marlin, I’m guessing. But the first fish IS a special fish, no matter what kind it is.
Bill got the fish off the hook and let him go, and asked Alex if he wanted to catch another fish. A nod and a "yeah" and the pole was brought back and then snapped forward, the line stretching out over the water again.
Julia watched with some interest and with some impatience. I’d brought bread in case there were any ducks or geese or swans, but since there weren’t, I gave her a piece instead. (No, it wasn’t stale.) That kept her busy for a little bit.
I took pictures. Black and white. The event called for black and white. I shot a whole roll while we were there. 36 pictures or so. Alex caught 7 or 8 sunfish. And then we walked home.
The reel was a birthday present. Alex turned 3 on Friday. Three. "I’m not four yet" he will say, shaking his head, a somber expression on his face. No. But three is pretty exciting all by itself.
I started going fishing when I was three. With my grandfather – Dad’s father. And with my Dad too, though my main memory is just with Grandpa. I felt a fish grab the bait and was so startled that I committed the nearly unforgiveable sin of LETTING GO of the pole. Like lightening, Grandpa snatched the pole before it could go under and told me, in no uncertain terms, that you never let go of the pole. I have not forgotten.
I think Bill started at a later age. It was in his blood. He just had to. His mom would go with him when he was younger. And here we are now: Alex is three, and just caught his first fish. I don’t know who was happier – Alex or Bill or me.
He didn’t want to leave. Alex, I mean. He insisted on carrying the pole for almost the entire walk home. "I want to catch more fish!"
You will have plenty of opportunities, Alex. Guaranteed.
Happy Birthday, my little man.
P.S. My dad just called. Not about this – he called because he has an excess of basil and thyme and sage and dill plants and wanted to know if we needed any. Nope. But we’ll take a grape tomato plant.
And I told him about Alex’s adventure this morning. I could hear the grin on my father’s face.
And I could hear the whirr of ten pound test line zipping off of a reel, arcing across the generations.