Friday, August 27, 2010


Welcome to the third and final edition of the O.I. countdown. This time next week we will be camping out in my grandparent's big house (with lots of other people) and preparing for the move onto the island. Which reminds me of this one time.... back in the day... my parents got lost while driving to Gram & Grandpa's house and pulled over to question a passer-by for directions. I think the conversation went like this: "Pardon me, do you know where North Worcester street is?". About ten minutes of general confusion ensues and then a light clicks on. "Oh!! you mean No' Wista street. Sure, sure."
I think I will be working on my Boston / Cape Cod accent this week. Just in case we get lost.

#9. Fresh Flounda

Eating flounder just isn't so exotic until you know it flopped out of the ocean a couple hours ago and you talk about it with a Cape Cod-ian accent. Mmmm. Breaded and fried flounder strips on the back deck of a cottage. Gotta love fresh flounda.

Some people do the same for fresh clam and quahogs that they catch off the island. I stick to the flounda.

#10. Uncle Peter's Boat Motors

Obviously one of the main reasons Onset Island is so fun is that it is shared with the entire McBride family and all of the wonderful characters that make up our clan. One of the most entertaining of those characters is Uncle Peter. Especially when he gets together with my dad. Especially on the basketball court. Or in the whiffle ball field. But another good location to watch Uncle Peter in his prime is in the back of a rowboat, giving some TLC to his old boat motor. We have a classic old home video - back during the start of the O.I. tradition - of Uncle Peter and Dad taking off for a little manly bonding time of fishing in the bay. It's a tranquil scene: two men relaxing in a little wooden boat and puttering along looking for a nice fishing spot. Then Uncle Peter revs it into high gear and the motor roars... And they remain puttering forward at the same speed. I don't think it was uncommon for them to get passed by rowers.
And then there was the time that motor fell off the back of the boat and someone had to go diving for it.

Finally one year Gram & Grandpa had mercy and bought Uncle Peter a newer, more powerful motor. But I believe he still brings the old beast with him and tries to bring it to life. Onset Island just wouldn't be the same without it.

#11. A friendly game of knock-out

When we first started attending O.I. I was a little shrimp and could hardly make a goal in the basketball hoop. Nevertheless I was a part of the McB family basketball games. And knock-out. Some things haven't changed.
Back then Uncle Peter (aka "The Doctor") and Dad (aka "Polski O'Gorki" or "The Polish Pickle") were the real players and their antics effectively left the rest of us doubled over in laughter while they scored all the goals. (I never understood just how those nicknames stuck so well. Especially considering Dad is the one with the PhD and Uncle Peter is the Polish one.) But these days the grown boy cousins rule the game. The rest of us dart around and act like we're integral members of the team, or resort to Annie's method of shouting "Ching-botta-bing" while trying to make a basket. Nicknames are an important part of the basketball court, and Onset Island in general. The year before a group of us older cousins left the joys of O.I. for the real world of college the two teams consisted of Francis & Abby, the Wise Old Sages, versus Russell & I, the October Neophytes.

And occasionally other non-family members join in the fun as well. Usually on Saturdays when the crowds swarm in for the festivities. But a couple years we were frequently joined by "Jeff and Ky' " (from Boston). Or James, the island's (ex)candy man.

#12. CTPWB & the Saturday night dance

The Saturday festivities have become the high point of the island week. Now this is when all of those cousins who are chained to their desks in college can have the freedom to travel up for some fun in the sun. And lots of friends have joined the ranks. Boats are constantly coming and going from the mainland, carting passengers to and from the happy dreamworld of Onset. In the afternoon everyone gathers around to watch or participate in the annual whiffle ball game. CTPWB.... Campaign to Play Whiffle Ball. These videos sum up the spirit of the game.

Then, after an extra unusually packed and chaotic McB family dinner (and singing session), the crowds begin to congregate at the sandy basketball/volleyball court in the middle of the island. Auntie Jane leads the gaggle of other musicians (anyone who brings an instrument is welcome to chip in) and the music & dancing begins.

Contra dances, waltzes, the Ox dance (also affectionately known as "the boogy dance"...always a favorite), hambos & other swedish dances... Followed by the traditional "Walk to Iceland" game led by Uncle Craig (who, by height and skill, always wins). When we were little a pinata was also usually involved.
The evening is concluded with a large circle of people singing our traditional swedish farewell song. And then usually some knock-out.

A few last long & loud good-byes offered from the wharf as the remainder of the day's guests are rowed off of the island. Then a couple last relaxing and quiet days before it is our turn to say good-bye.

Naturally there are a lot of other things that I love that didn't make it onto this countdown list. Like late night swims with bioluminescent jellyfish lighting up the waves and swimmers' silhouettes like underwater fireworks. Or swimming in the lagoon at high tide with Shesha. But the most important thing that makes Onset Island Onset Island is family. A chance to talk and catch up, relax and act silly, and generally have wonderful fellowship with loved ones that we don't get to see very often. That is Onset Island.


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