The other 49 weeks


To the Editor:

It’s just a bench. It has four wood panels that you sit on and three to support your back. Like most park benches, it is supported by a concrete structure. This one has a dedication on it: “David Smith, August 5, 1990 – January 14, 2010, A Kid In The Summertime.” I didn’t know David Smith, or why this bench was dedicated to him. It sits facing Katama Bay where many Islanders rake for clams. Each night, the rakers stride past the bench in the hope of scraping up enough steamers for dinner. They barely notice it.

I watch from the bench as some rush into the water, as if someone will steal their food if they don’t get there fast enough. Some have more of a methodical strategy with how they approach the work at hand. Others come to take a leisurely boat ride on the bay. They struggle as they haul their boats onto their trailers after a long day on the bay or out on the ocean. They too seem to ignore the bench. Even the birds seem to disregard it.

To me, this bench is special. It is something that I think about for the 49 weeks of the year when I’m not on Martha’s Vineyard. It is a majestic throne that overlooks a water kingdom. It exhilarates me through the peace and serenity that recharge my batteries each year. In fact, it gets me through those long winter days of commuting into New York City. And when I have “one of those days,” I picture myself sitting on what I have become to refer to as “my bench.”

The image of me sitting on my bench overlooking the bay stands out when my family decides whether we should return to the Vineyard the following summer. Sure, I love the ambience of the Island with its eclectic things to do, but it’s something about my bench that is magical. It has medicinal powers that simply elude my scientific mind. Maybe it is just a symbol of tranquility that I often long for.

As each day leads into the night on my vacation, I attempt to steal away to my bench before my family realizes that I’m gone. When I’m not in our rented house, they know where to find me — gazing at everything and at nothing all at once. On those days when I try to sneak out of the house without anyone noticing, my plan inevitably is thwarted by the questions of “Where are you going? Can I come?” “Of course,” I respond, trying to look as sincere as possible. But the truth is, I selfishly want my bench all to myself. It allows me to be a “kid in the summertime,” where my mind can drift, and time is not an issue.

It’s not just a bench; it’s my bench.

Lee Goldberg

Katama and Wayne, N.J.