When we arrived at the dance in Dodge Hall on Saturday night, the strobe lights were blinking, the children were jumping, Yuvon was watching in her motherly apron, Buck stood near the kitchen door watching, and Phil was stamping the backs of hands which had paid. Doreen was back in the kitchen cooking hot dogs and selling cool drinks to thirsty customers taking a rest from the action in the west room. There the whole assembly was lined up on a grid doing the Macarena. Hands were extended. Hands patted their own heads. Hands hugged themselves. Hands patted their own fine buttocks. Then with a leap, the gridded “buck privates” did a quarter turn and …Hands were extended…Hands patted their own heads…It was great fun. Young and old joined in the gestures. Debby Donaldson, the female part of D&S DJs, and professional dance teacher, led one after another-spot dance.
Josh and his crowd came and went, sometimes dancing, sometimes not, but always a part of the performance. One little fellow perched himself on a milk can, the better to watch every move. Three year old Mary Bazinet wound in and out imitating the motions. Ada Bazinet sat on the side bench with Bob who squatted on his haunches, maybe wishing for his gutbucket and the old band of islanders who played at the Hall in the 1960’s. I was sort of wishing for them too, Leon with his fiddle, Jim with his guitar, John on the piano a-chordin’ it, and Charlie calling the quadrilles. Sis was there on Saturday night still enjoying, still dancing every step in her heart. Toward eleven o’clock, I was , with her, and Bob and Ada, entranced by the hoola hoop contest won by two experts, Christina Marra, of the under-twelve group, and Jacie Donaldson of the over twelve group Then came the real test of skill, the Limbo. Bubby Bazinet, the hall president, outdid himself, managing to get under once or twice! Again there were two contests. One for the under twelves, one for the over twelves. The kids in both groups quickly lined themselves up and got started. If you’ve never watched the Limbo, you can’t imagine the contortions the spaghetti players twist themselves into to get under a progressively lowered stick without touching it. Jessica Martin won the under twelve contest; Jamie Donaldson won the over twelve competition. And through the whole evening, they danced the Macarena over and over. At about eleven thirty, John and I decided it was our bedtime. But Debby, seeing us at the door, came and promised that Bubby would call a square dance right away. We couldn’t resist.
However, none of these good natured, young, energetic kids, not even the thirty or forty some things could be prevailed upon to dance such an old fashioned dance. Finally, four couples grouped themselves in the middle of the floor (two of them mostly to be good sports) and danced three of the old time favorites.. John and I had a wonderful time. But, Square dancing is not the “done thing” any more. We learned that the world of our youth has changed! I try to persuade myself that I like the new dances just as well, that if I could untangle my right and left hands, I could do the Macarena even if it does seem like a boot camp exercise to this fuddy-duddy, even if I’ve always disliked swimming in straight lanes. But the intertwining of the squares, the interplay with the other dancers in a set, the contra-dance, the feel of the hall when several squares are washing like waves in and out over and under in the wonderful rhythm of the old time quadrille makes me long for what seems to an ancient to be so rich with flesh and blood, the lilt of life, and the interaction, the exchange, the moving in response to each other, the enjoyment of each other.
So I came home thinking of Summerland Island, besieged by the Jet Ski convention, by the noisy mosquito-like machines, the “personal watercraft”, zipping “round and round, going nowhere” very, very fast, each driver in his or her own shell, independent of the others, going in his or her own wholly personally chosen direction. Sitting down to read a bit before bed, I came across a New York Times article saying Jet Skis have been banned at Lake Tahoe, (once a crystal clear lake in California) because the skis “dump a gallon of raw fuel into the water for every five they burn”. That pollution is reason enough to question the use of the skis on the river, but on Saturday night, I questioned the use of “personal craft”. In our youth we were taught that we are all pretty much in the same boat, needing to interact, respond to each other in order to get to port. Jet Skis, like the Macarena, a “personal dance”, separate people , each one, alone, doing his or her own dance …(but, strangely, doing exactly what everyone else is doing) In the Square Dance, everyone is pretty much in the same boat pulling an oar. I find great pleasure in seeing two or three or four people together in a family boat going to town to do the shopping, or tootling slowly along at sunset simply enjoying the water and the evening…and each other, quietly.
At other times I admire the changing world and seek the adventure of new ways. Next week, Ray John’s Band will play at the hall, and undoubtedly, John and I will be there, enjoying the hubub. It was wonderful watching Phil Marra enjoying the kids, the dances, and every bit of the evening, making everyone else (and me, the other side of me) enjoy the good fun and the amazing skill, with him!
On Sunday, we awoke to the bustle and stir of Old Homes Day, to cars going and coming to and from Potters Beach with Debbie’s six pies, the ham, the venison, the salads, the cold drinks, the tables, the prizes that fifty four merchants from Clayton donated to the hall raffle, (thanks to Doreen Meeks’ enterprise). The mugs that Audrey Lashomb had decorated with Grindstone paintings and photographs, and the red, green and blue Grindstone afghans she designed came too, to the beach, and lots of people took them home, to remember the day.
The line was long at the dinner table, but no one minded waiting because there were so many old friends to talk to, Carnegies, Browns (under “their tree, where they always are, but this year at a table Buck set up for Magel) , Slates, Rossmasslers, Rushos, Taylors, Bazinets, Ingersons, Dodges, Schwartzes, Garnseys, and on and on. The weather was threatening, but it never rained and everyone seemed to have had faith that it wouldn’t. I saw nary a raincoat. Just about everyone stayed through the afternoon, and Kathleen Balcom played several games with the children. The older kids played a game of baseball in the mown field later in the day. Old Homes Day is treasured by old and young each year, and all ages come ready to jump right into the reminiscing, many ready to jump into the river, and have a great time.
Church was short so everyone could get to the picnic. But a few people took time to visit out in the churchyard even though there was no coffee after the service. Ann and Bob Binhammer were there for the first time this summer. We’re always especially glad to have them back. This Sunday we needed their voices for the new hymns we sang! Susan Greenberg and I talked for a minute about the hope we are given in the history (as opposed to the teachings) of Jesus’ life. On Wednesday night at the parsonage she’d talked about that, but I couldn’t be there. Our son, John, arrived with his three children that very day.
Mary Lou Rusho, Susan’s mother, told me that Sherry, her other daughter, also arrived last week for a few days, and is coming back . She is feeling much better, though the trip was strenuous for her.
One of the things the Thurso people talked about on Old Homes Day was their spying, on Saturday, a figure coming down the road from the church that was the spitting image of Emmet Dodge. “I could have sworn it was he,” said Yuvon Marra. “It walked just like him.” Actually, it was his grandson, Bob Ingerson, who had come a day early for the Old Homes Day celebration. We hoped he would come back on Sunday.
It’s hard to stop a party on Grindstone, so, at five-thirty, we found ourselves back in the Meeks’ yard celebrating Yuvon and Phil Marra’s 45th anniversary with more cake, more pie, more coffee, and more good stories. Then it was time for the Marras to go back to Watertown for a week, and for the rest of us to go home to rest up for Monday.
I got a telephone call this week telling me about one of those bits of graciousness on the river which makes us all happy to be here. It was from “Jim”. He said that his son-in-law, Tom Kody, from Great Falls, Virginia, and his grandson, Thomas Kody, were out fishing with him, drifting along in their boat around Eel Bay. They caught several fish, and after a good day, decided to pull up anchor and head home. But the motor would not, would NOT start. In a few minutes a boat came out of a dock on the foot of Grindstone, so Jim hailed it for help. It turned out that the pilot and his passengers were late for a party. But they wouldn’t leave Jim and his passengers stranded. So, the pilot, Tim Purcell, came aboard, took off the engine cover, and in no time, using “some kind of a rope around something”, pulled two or three times, and presto, the motor started. So Tim and his crew went off to their party, and Jim and Tom and Thomas went home to clean fish. Thomas, by the way, is the great, great grandson of Jesse Murdock of Grindstone Island. He is here visiting great grandma Agnes Kittle who has just broken her second hip in two and a half years!
Next week is the Aunt Jane’s Bay service. If you need a ride in the van, please call the parsonage and someone will pick you up. All the Sunday School teachers are scheduled for the year, but if you would like to contribute supplies to the Sunday School call Mary Beers to see what would be useful.
On Wednesday, Ken Deedy will come to the parsonage at seven o’clock for an evening of discussion of the role of TILT on Grindstone Island. 40 % of the island is now under the management of TILT, so, Doc Schwartz says, if you are interested in the well being of your island, come talk about it!
So it is.