That Little Puddle
y mother brought me into this world in a house on Benedict Avenue, acrossthe street from St. Helena's. One day when I was about 4 years old I was outside playing with my friend, Joey Mannix, atop a pile of dirt that had been dug up while clearing the land for the Safeway Store that would be built there. My mother sat me down and told me that we weren't going to live here anymore, that we had to move. After a couple of hundred "Whys" and "How comes", I learned that Joey could not move with us and that I'd find new friends in this new place.
When we arrived at this new place I looked out the window between two houses and I could feel some sort of bond forming between me and this vast body of water I was staring at. I was so transfixed I couldn't speak. I was pulling on my mother's dress and pointing. When she looked at what I was pointing at she told me that the water was called Eastchester Bay. The land beyond that was called City Island. Well, I kept pulling on her dress and she asked me, "What?" Now I looked up at her and when I was able to speak I told her we had to live here, and when she smiled at me I knew we would.
Moving day was pretty busy for everybody except me. All they got out of me was, "I want to go see the water, I want to go see the water." So to keep me from being under foot, my mother told my brother to take me to go see the water. When we got to the water I knew I was in a different world and that my life would now revolve around it. We walked out on a small jetty and as I was looking in the water I could see something moving. I told my brother and he said they are called killies, so I looked a little closer and that's the day I learned how to swim. When my brother pulled me back up on the jetty he was laughing so hard he had to sit down. I guess it was my swimming stroke, probably a modified version of the doggie paddle. After I got over my initial shock I started laughing too. He asked me where had I learned to swim. I told him I didn't know how to swim; I was just trying to stay alive. He explained that it's a lot easier to swim if you take off your shoes, pants, and shirt. So we went where the water wasn't over my head and tried it again and loved it.
After lunch and L'il Dave's nap it was back to, "I want to go see the water, I want to go see the water," but this time I was shocked. Most of it was gone. It was low tide. So after about another hundred "Whys" and "How comes," we walked down past the sandy part of the beach into the rocks, mud and mussel beds. Lo and behold, I found "That Little Puddle." It was a small tidal pool about ten by ten feet wide, and two to three inches deep. When I got closer and looked in it, there they were, my friends, the killies. And they had friends, the snails, the little horseshoe crabs, and the little eels. I just couldn't wait to get home and tell my Mom. She was right: my first day in this new place and I had made new friends. She sat me down and told me how all my little friends would someday grow up to be adults just as I would someday grow to be a man. I thought I found the center of the universe where everything started right here in Edgewater Park.
After that my Mom would take me by the water whenever possible. She would sit on the waterfront talking to the neighbors or reading a book while I was at "That Little Puddle." When she was busy the neighbors would watch me and sometimes she would watch the neighbors' kids. If I begged enough she would give me a piggyback ride back to the house or when she wanted me home I would hear "Daaaaaaavid..." and I'd yell back "Coming Ma," and I'd run home to tell her about what happened in that little puddle that day.
One day I came home and didn't have anything to tell her. She knew right away something was wrong. When she asked me to tell her what happened I told her that I found a blue crab eating one of my friends, a little horseshoe crab, so I had picked up the biggest rock I could find and killed him. Well, she got upset and sat me down and gave me another lesson on life. The next day I found a can and brought home all the little horseshoe crabs I could find but I was told to bring them back to where I found them or else they would die, but L'il Dave didn't do what his mother told him to do. He wanted his little friends to be safe. So I hid them behind the tree nest to the fence. When my Mom saw me out in the yard the next day looking into a can, misty eyed, she knew what I had done. She came outside, but instead of yelling at me for not doing what I was told she got some tin foil, put it over the can, and we buried it next to the tree. Then she sat me on her lap and gave me another lesson about life. To this day I can't believe how many lessons about life that I still use today just from that little puddle.
They say you can never go home again. I'm 54 years old now, sitting on a screened porch in St. Augustine, Florida. But all I have to do is close my eyes and I can time travel back to the center of the universe, back to Edgewater Park, and I'll be standing in front of that little puddle.
This is dedicated to Mom, may she rest in peace.