The Battle Of the Century This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

January 19, 2010
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Salty water slowly dribbles from my hair to my chin. The occasional drip hitting my eyelid and soaks into my eye with a sharp pain. The moment in time where it seems like nobody is moving and everything is silent. Waiting, waiting for the brutal attack from underneath. The instant that you thought he was never going to rip us in the ocean is when he springs and springs with a purpose; to get one of us drenched. He slashed around for a body part and whoever that unlucky soul was, got torn away from the raft and jerked away like rag dolls.

Ever since I was only three weeks old I have been going to Cape Cod with all twenty one members of my mom’s side of the family. Well it started at a much fewer amount of people, but the family has really grown all together there. Especially myself, I have been going there every single year since I was born. I even had my first bath there! Over the years up at the Cape two of my aunts have married and had five kids. That is seven more people added to my already large family. We have grown and become much closer from the start of my childhood to now. The years up at the Cape have allowed me to realize how lucky I am to have the family that I do. There are many events that I can crack up about and feel embarrassed about to this very day.

One tradition that has extraordinarily brought my uncle, my cousins, my sisters, and I together is a game we (all together) invented. This exhilarating game is called Tominator. It is only named Tominator for my uncles name is Tom. My uncle is a six foot six inch giant. He is the right man for the job because when standing in somewhat deep waters he can still throw the raft and rip kids off of it. Also he wears the water shoes for protection from crabs, but that came after the invention of the game. This game brings so many smiles to my cousins and I. Then my corny (but loving) grandparents can’t help but chuckle (and if it is my grandma then she ends up snorting).

My grandparents gaze down at their books and most days eventually find themselves in a deep sleep after a long day in the sun. My dad gouges sand out of the beach with his feet, a strange habit he finds himself doing every time he sits in the lawn chairs. Scraping away until he reaches moist sand and the ground ends up in a bowl shape. My mom and aunts all acquire rather nice tans in the blistering sun. The B team (A.K.A. my baby cousins) and an uncle or two are all up at the house napping and if it is my uncle Chris then he usually ends up napping with them. I mean I’m not trying to say he is lazy or anything like that…ha, yeah; wink, wink. Napping is my least favorite part of the summers in Cape Cod. All the adults expect us teenagers to be silent while in the house. Quiet is not an easy task to obtain with us five.

My two cousins, my two sisters, and I all scuttle for the big yellow and blue raft which comfortably fits us five cousins. Tominator leaves for the water to watch us, to wait for us. We prepare ourselves for battle. Our hands each grab a dirty handle, we scuff the sand off for traction (partly to intimidate the Tominator, but that did not work) and he just laughs at us. The stench of previous battles still fresh in the air as well as seaweed, dead crabs, and salt so fresh that you can taste it in the back of your throat. One of the cousins (usually my sister Roey because she is the youngest and we like to boss her around) grabs the anchor and hoists it above her head. This is done to scare Tominator, but we all know that he is not afraid of a milk carton filled with sand. Each and every one of us knows there is a battle waiting for us, and yes it will be the battle of the century. We will go all out; blood and guts on this one for there will not be endless opportunities. Thump, thump. Step after step we go carrying our battle raft, trudging through the hot sand like Navy Seals to get to waters edge, for he is waiting. All sorts of thoughts are rattling around in our heads. What will this fight be like? Will I survive? Will we finally defeat the beast? I slowly lurch my head to the right and I see my family members gazing back at us five brave soldiers ready to fight. I glance over to my left and all I see is open water. Behind us up at the house my cousins wait, they wait for this magnificent battle to unfold and for their turn to fight in this glorious war. One final glance ahead and I see an eager Tominator waiting for us; our hearts start pounding faster and faster, and harder and harder like they would jump into our coffins. We reach waters edge and the cold water brushes up against my toes sending a tingling sensation down my spine. There he was, only a few paces ahead of us, watching our every move. This is war!

There are three types of nervous: a truly nervous feeling where you feel sick to your stomach, an excited type of nervous, and in this case a mix of the two. A nervous where you are scared, but you just have to do it. This is also a feeling much like the first time I learned how to ride my bike. I was so scared of going down the tiny little grass hill in my backyard, but I just had to do it. I couldn’t wait any longer; my excitement had taken over the nerves. Then once you do it you are happy and usually (at least in most of my cases) you end up loving it.

We push the boat into the water, all of us five vault into the raft and Tominator starts bringing us out to sea. Slowly he walks us out pulling the raft along, jerking us every which way to scare us. It always ends up where one person screams about wanting to go back to the beach, but there was no turning back now. Now we drop anchor about five and a half feet deep and sixty feet away from shore on a sandbar. Great for standing on, but the thought of even grazing a toe on the sand doesn’t cross any of our minds for fear of crabs. Suddenly Tominator dunks his head and the battle is underway. We all frantically glance around in every direction, no sign of… he is suddenly pushing up on the raft from underneath. He lifts it up with all his might and fully extends his body. Fellow soldiers lose their grip and get thrown away to the water with a hard crash. A few brave soldiers hold on for dear life, just grasping a handle, but then he takes them and finishes them off. He chucks you to your doom. Easy for him being such a solid man.

The next and probably one of the most exciting parts of the battle is when all five cousins get in the water and flip the raft over us so that our heads are not showing outside but we can still breathe in our space between the raft seat and the water. Little sunlight seeps through the yellow rubber raft. We all glance down at our kicking feet, the water truly is clear. The water is so clear that you can see a sand crab scuttling across the bottom five feet below. Everyone is breathing heavily and because we are in our raft cave it is echoing “like crazy”, as we put it to our parents later that day. Our eyes dart around to all parts visible. Suddenly the hand of a beast snags a leg and rips the victim to the outside. This is where it gets even scarier. One by one we all get taken away to our doom. He grabs limbs left and right, pulling them away until there are no more soldiers left under there. Oddly, it is worst to be the last one remaining because it is especially scary under there when you are alone.

This game is so full of adventure and it always gives us laughs. It used to be what I looked forward to most about going to Cape Cod. Then no all of our family was going to the Cape at the same times. Tominator was slowly coming to a close. We went to desperate measure to save the game (but to us it was much more than a game), we asked other uncle s to play and even chanted their name; Larrynator, Laynenator, Chrisonator (good luck to anyone who wants to get him to play). No one of those uncles worked out playing the game, things would start going then we would say “No, Uncle Tom usually does this; or come on you can’t even tip us and that was the easiest part for Tominator!” Things just were not working the way they did with Tominator. They can’t handle what the six foot six bald guy can. He carries a burden up there. We were so desperate to play that we even asked my grandfather to play with us. That was just throwing ideas out there, any way to carry on the tradition. “Yeah right!” he exclaimed. I knew that was coming. With Uncle Tom Tominator is a battle, with everyone else it is merely a game.

The Tominator tradition has not been carried along these past years, but I will never forget those all out wars and long “fights” with him. Though the Tominator tradition has ended my family still and I have many laughs and many debates at family get together events. Sometimes those debates end up to much like debates and my Uncle Tom and my grandpa end up really yelling. The smiles we all have on at holiday dinners makes me think to myself of how lucky I am to have such a great family. I love them and I always will, even when I am extremely mad, sad, or any other emotion. Bottom line is that I always have, still do, and always will love my family!





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This article has 4 comments. Post your own now!

NYTimes editor said...
Jan. 30, 2010 at 5:20 pm
Well young Mappa, you nailed it with this one. Taking many individual, sometimes minor, memories to make a larger point....BRILLIANT! And the snort, you had me at the snort. Well done Jack, and I hope you remember how much you love your family next time I embarass you in public (I'll try not to, I swear, but you know...I gotta dance)! Love, love, love it (and you),
 
mominator said...
Jan. 27, 2010 at 7:10 pm
Jack, You did a great job on your memoir and should be very proud. This is a memory we all remember well and it is nice to have someone archive it in writing. How about we edit together next time, you got both my mathematical and scientific brain as well as my writing skills LOL I love you, Mom(inator)
 
Tominator said...
Jan. 25, 2010 at 4:19 pm
The TOMINATOR is greatly displeased that anyone should think the tradition has ended. The TOMINATOR lurks in the deep in the waters of Cape Cod awaiting Summer 2010. The TOMINATOR will arise again. What is this about a B-team? I hope there will be at least one fresh victim for me. Rarrgghhh!
 
poppy said...
Jan. 25, 2010 at 7:46 am
It is truly remarkable how well Jack has captured the details of this struggle but more important is the way he relates it to the love of family. Great job Jack. This is a keeper for Nonni & Poppy because the times you describe and the loving memories they evoke make the house at the Cape the smartest thing we ever did. Nonni snorted five times while reading your story which means we rate you five (5) stars. We couldn't be more proud and thanks for sharing.
 
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