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Having Everything MAG
I'm doing the backstroke through 50-degree water. The cold prevents me from swimming for more than a few minutes at a time, and yet I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. My mom throws goggles from the boat, laughing at my insanity, as I get ready to dive. I swim along the surface to make sure the shadows I see below are abalone. I think about how they will taste. The thought convinces me to take the 15-foot dive down to grab them before they latch on to the ocean floor. I break the surface, shivering, and know how wonderful my life is compared to living in a city down in the lower 48 states.
• • •
Dad pulls into our favorite hunting spot. I clutch my new 20-gauge as I notice mallards along the windy shore line. Clink clink, my gun takes the shells, as I slip silently from our truck. Gravel rolls under my boots as Dad and I sneak into the woods.
We're being too loud. Dad slips and the birds take flight. I pull up my gun and fire two shots at the last duck. I retrieve it and wring its neck. We head home.
Plucking it takes forever. Mom grimaces at the mess and makes me do the dinner dishes, but the addition to the meal fills my mouth with joy.
• • •
The waves gently lap at the blue bow of our boat as bright salmon hit our drift net. A sea lion breaks the tranquility with a splash. It swims around the net, tearing out fish and web. If it wants to play hard ball, I'm game, I think as I grab a lighter and some bottle rockets. I light the biggest one, and it soars over the net, emitting high-pitched squeals, flashy sparks, and a loud bang. I see a shadow as the sea lion flees underwater. The rocket has done the trick.
• • •
An eagle swims into the beach, propelling itself with legs and feathery strokes of its wings. It reaches the shore before I notice the purpose of its odd squirm through the green waters. It has scared five herring and a humped salmon onto the rocky beach. The giant bird grabs three of the fish in her beak and the others in her claws, then flies to her nest nearby. I clench the railing as I stretch to get a better view of the nest. The babies squawk and cry hungrily as they fill their bellies with fish, then nestle under their mother for a midday rest.
• • •
Pounds of moose fried in a homemade gravy; oysters baked slowly, marinated in butter and garlic; noodles cooked in a bubbling bath on the stovetop. The finished product is a heaping pile of noodles with moose meat stacked high and five giant oysters sitting like nobles on top. The meal I ate that night was one of the best I have ever had.
• • •
It's a month or so before Christmas, and the topic at our dinner table is presents. We don't rely on Santa anymore; we just say what we are hoping to get and the rest of the family determines the outcome.
“So, what's on the list, guys?” my mom asks as she passes out napkins.
“Well, I would like … no, I have one of those,” my sister, Helen, thinks out loud as she chews. “You guys could buy me all nine seasons of ‘SpongeBob,'” she says with a smile.
“All nine?” Dad asks.
“Just kidding,” she laughs as if she's too mature for “SpongeBob” now.
“I'd like a gun cabinet,” I announce. I actually don't need one, but my mom gets mad when I stash my guns in my closet.
“We could build one,” Dad suggests, grabbing another oyster.
“Yeah, you're right,” I say as I think of how long that would take, and continue puzzling over what else I want. “I can't think of anything,” I say, surprised.
“I think I have all my sprouts for spring,” Mom says skeptically, tapping the table with her nails.
“Yup, those are ordered,” Dad announces. “Practically a ton of them,” he whispers.
“What?” Mom yells.
“Nothing,” Dad says quickly, changing the subject. “All I ever needed is a family to love, a roof over my head, comfortable shoes, and a warm place to take a nap.”
My mom says, “Ditto to that,” and we laugh, our stomachs filling fast, and the dim light adding to the room's perfect serenity.
Helen accidentally spills her peas and sweeps them under the table to the dog quickly enough that I'm the only one who sees. Then she says, “We really have everything we need, don't we?”
“I totally agree,” I say, as I think back on all the fun things I did over the past year. “But it wouldn't hurt to have a few babes move to Wrangell,” I comment.
This Christmas was a small one, but no less fun or enjoyable.