Fisherman's Boots


A story narrated to me from my grandfather, a fisherman from The North End of Boston.

My father learned to swim in the crystal blue waters in Sicily, in a hamlet called Terrasini, but for some reason he never taught me how to swim. Imagine, a fisherman not knowing how to swim! There was a public swimming area near our house in the North End where I grew up, but mother was always afraid and never let me go. My parents were very cautious and protective, thinking of my own interest. As a fisherman, I was out in the water every day (was it really in my own interest?).

One day I found out the hard way. Coming home from a long day of fishing, we headed in towards the wharf. In those days boats had no clutches; we usually glided in and hit to stop. Well, this particular time we hit hard and the mast swung around and smashed me in the head. I flew through the air, dazed, and was hoisted overboard. Papa had just bought me a new pair of rubber boots. Luckily for me, he had seen the incident and immediately dove in after me. I was in the ocean with a swollen head, struggling to save the boots my father had just bought me. That was really important to me. As I groped for the boots, I began to plunge. Papa had grabbed ahold of my thrashing body and swam us both back to the boat. That day my father saved my life.