Sunday, July 10, 2011

Come and Have a Look at a Worm

This weekend, we took the kids to Mystic Seaport in Connecticut. At the end of our day, after a visit to a reconstructed Amistad and taking in a casual set of seafaring tunes played by a pony-tailed man, after boarding a cod ship and watching my daughter happily wash two bandannas on a scrubbing board and hang them out on a line to dry, we went over to the last wooden whaling ship in America, the Charles W. Morgan. Looking like an enormous ark all propped up and land locked like in the movies, we climbed up 32 steps and wandered around the enormous ship that saw over 1000 sailors work its deck over the course of several decades of service killing sperm whales. On our way out, we took in the exhibit explaining the renovation, and there, under a microscope, was a worm of the kind that ate all the wooden whaling ships.

"Come and have a look at a worm," an Englishwoman told her daughters, who were maybe ten and seven. Her voice was tired, her cheeks sunburned, her kids' legs had a sheen of sweat on them. They came over and had a look at a worm under a microscope. And that, I thought, is the condition of parenting kids long done with strollers but not yet in bras or braces. You schlepp them somewhere, down 95 or across an ocean, and you visit a place that's genuinely interesting and also quite tiring, and you urge them to look at an insect up close. All the while twenty dollar bills are burning holes in your pockets, waiting to be swapped out for deeply fried fish or fudge. Such is the summer family trip. The food is hit or miss, and there are rarely aperitifs, but these trips are, all in all, quite fantastic.

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