10 September 2007...3:55 pm

A Marriage At Middle Pond

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Mary and Nathan had told themselves that after her parents left, they wouldn’t take the boat rides by themselves. And, in the way that daughters scold mothers-a clucking that only indicates the extent to which we have learned to stage manage in their absence-Mary had informed the indomitable Frances that, really, she and Nathan would not be taking the boat rides.

They were wrong. Mary and Nathan took the boat rides, and so did we, slightly before and then anxiously after sunset, on the electric-motor boat named Caramel with tinny Mozart piping out the sides. The boat is important: it is made of the same warm yellow wood as the classic Adirondack guide-boats (a row-boat, Mary, Cee and I kept saying, this is just called a row-boat!), and it is where the family and the gin convene, each evening at six.

We had all managed to come to Long Lake after a frantic week and half of false starts–confusions about work schedules and lover schedules, car rides and bus tickets–but there we were, having warm beers and slightly cooler mixed drinks, enjoying a very fancy breeze.

The drive from the city to the Adirondacks had been majestic, and it had involved a lot of very dark, very spindly bits near the end. At one point, as I was trying to concentrate on my cigarette and the sudden bridge beneath me, there was a sign: The Mouth of the Hudson. And then: Hudson River Watershed. In fact, Long Lake is not where the Hudson begins–that’s in the High Peaks–but seeing a sign like that is like entering Pennsylvania on I-80 and looking West. Many things seem possible, and more than that, close.


By the boat ride we were all sun-addled and tired like children. Mary grew increasingly flyblown as the voltage decreased. You guys! We are down to thirty-six point five!

Didn’t your mother say that thirty-six was a fine number for starting out? At this point, we were almost back to the dock.

Well, yes! Mary was not appeased.

As it happens, this sunset boat ride is one of the only times Mary’s father leaves the house when he is visiting. As such, he is forced to confine his considerable potential for public antic to the forty-five minutes or so in which he, his wife and their three daughters tool around Long Lake, drinking, calling loons, and minding their voltage.

When he is out on the water, Mary’s father likes to turn up the volume on the boat speakers, steer right up close to the neighbors, stand up, and start conducting. It is a large lake, and there are very few houses, so I am puzzled as to how this happens on a regular basis without someone calling the volunteer fire department.

Does your mother mind?

Mary looked mortified. She turns bright red!

So we kept clear of the neighbors and putted around Long Lake as the evening crept up its edges. Nathan was at the helm and Jen used the word “starboard” as much as circumstance allowed.

Oh! Gordon said. Do you know who got married?

None of us had known, because the ceremony had happened in Ethiopia this summer after only a month’s courtship. I said, though, that I wasn’t terribly shocked that Isabelle had gotten married. She has a great capacity for love. Like, she has a lot of love inside of her.

Gordon, who knows Isabelle far better than the rest of us, thought about this. She is impulsive. But I was surprised. She converted, too.

We didn’t get very far in figuring out what distinguished Ethiopian Orthodoxy from its more northerly equivalents, orthodox or otherwise. It was something to do with an ancient schism over the substances of God and Christ and how similar, percentage-wise, they are. I mentioned Unitarians. They think there’s no difference at all.

Nathan looked at me. That was much later.

We got back to the house and began making pizzas. Mary kneaded the dough, Noah read the paper, and Nathan mapped out the four different varieties that would eventually be named things like “Vegan Surprise” and “Miraculous Cheese.” He called the last one “Caboose.”


At the beginning of the weekend, there had been lots of big talk–mainly coming from the mouths of Cee, Mary and I–about the seven of us living in the Long Lake house. It would be like a commune! Cee imagined. We would all have jobs! I said.

By eleven o’clock on Saturday night, as we finally sat down to dinner, no one was fantasizing anymore about a collective relocation to the center of the Adirondacks. In a nod to our artificial nostalgia for wood frame structures + nubile beings + mountains north of Manhattan, we’d put on the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. It had gotten kind of deafening, though, and the tempo was making us all feel like we had appointments to keep. In a break between songs, we read a poem, instead of saying grace.

Underneath the tree on some
soft grass I sat, I

watched two happy
woodpeckers be dis-

turbed by my presence. And
why not, I thought to

myself, why

On the boat ride earlier in that night, we’d talked about the American flag that fluttered behind us, and how scared our parents had been by September 11th. Most of us still acknowledged the importance of provisions. Mary giggled. Do you know what my parents thought about doing? We did not know.

They were going to buy a motor-boat to dock at a yacht club near our house. Mary is from Riverdale. Riverdale is about three-hundred miles from Long Lake. And then, in case another terrorist attack happened, we were all going to get into it and motor up the Hudson to Long Lake!

We cracked up. Along with all the other motor boats, said Noah.


1 Comment

  • oh emma. oh, emma. what a surprise. you told me about it but i just now happened upon it and we are in a fairy tale and you’re to thank.

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