When I was a little girl, my father used to take my sisters and I to Mystic Seaport in Connecticut once a year on vacation. I think we probably stayed for a few days at a time, but I feel like I spent a large part of my childhood there. So much comes back to me from those trips in the form of fleeting feelings of deja-vu, when the temperature is just a touch chilly and a slightly warm breeze begins to blow and the sky is that exact blue and there is salt in the air, and I am once again walking down the street towards the old rusted drawbridge that my father would always remark was perfectly timed. I grew up by the ocean, but somehow it was a very different ocean from the one in Mystic.
Many passions were born at Mystic. Whaling ships. Handmade baskets. Needlework. Ships’ primitive masthead carvings. Knots. The terrors of the giant squid. Good, home-brewed root beer. But most of all (or, at least, most accessibly at the time), scrimshaw.
My dad would get us the little souvenirs we would pick out–key chains with our names on them (or at least some approximation of our names) and shell-encrusted boxes, a glass jewel for refracting sunlight. The most coveted souvenir of all, though, for us girls raised as Hardy boys, was a scrimshaw pocketknife. I know now that the blade was always too dull to cut, that the ivory is really resin and that the pattern was imprinted by a machine. But I still have that $10 knife, and I probably always will. I consider it the first piece in my scrimshaw collection, my collection that has yet to grow into more than one piece, but which will one day conjure Mystic wherever my home turns out to be. Maybe it will be Mystic.