I was unloading the dishwasher the other day, and my wedding ring clinked against a glass bowl, making a sound so similar to a sound from childhood that I was transported instantly to a motorboat, zipping through briney rivers, the sun on my face and the wind in my hair. I even caught a whiff of salt air.
I grew up on a tidal creek off the coast of Georgia (on a small “hammock” island just before you get to Tybee Island), and we spent every weekend during the summers out on the boat. My mom was in charge of the beach bag, chairs, towels, snack foods, lunches, and packing the cooler, and my dad was in charge of everything relating to the boat and the dock – fuel, mechanicals, boat and dock maintenance, crab traps, lines, first aid/life jackets, and driving the boat. My brother and I would cast us off, then I’d take my seat in the bow, my head hanging over the side like a dog, and Adam (my brother) would hang out by the steering wheel with my dad. And as we pulled away from the dock, when my dad first put his hand to the stainless steel wheel, his wedding band would clink against it.
Throughout our hundreds of hours on the rivers, the clank of my dad’s ring on that steering wheel was as much a part of the weekend soundscape as the buzz of the motor, and it always, always made me feel safe, and secure, and loved. The sound, because it was made by his wedding band, was an audible reminder of my dad’s love for my mom, and for us, his family. And because it was tied up with my favorite thing on earth (riding around in the boat with my family) the clang of of his ring against the stainless steel wheel captured every good memory, every happy feeling of those childhood summers – the salt smell of the air, the warmth of the sun, the fun of the four of us being together, the freedom of the wind and the water, the thin crust of salt on our skin at the end of the day. Cold Cokes and salty snacks.
So when my wedding band clinked against a glass bowl the other day, that little sound filled me up. I could feel the warmth swelling in my heart til it overflowed. I was there again, as a kid in the boat, with my dad at the wheel. I was safe, and free, with salt air in my nose and the wind in my hair. It made me wonder what small thing, whether a sound, or a scent, will send my kids back to childhood when they’re grown, standing in their kitchen, remembering.
I wrote this in July, 2011 and published it here on June 17, 2012. I wanted to republish it today for Father’s Day. Happy Father’s Day, Dad!