Written by Lynn E. McElfresh
posted on October 13, 2018 12:55
Sometime in August — just as the summer season is coming to a close — five River women set aside a day just for themselves alone on the River.
It began as a lark, back in those halcyon days when they were just out of high school and responsibilities were few. Perhaps they sensed their carefree days were numbered and that was a good enough excuse to plan a day together. The five share a love for the River, so it was natural that they would celebrate life and their friendship by spending time together on the River. The first outing was such a success, they decided to repeat the event the next year and the next year and again this year. This year marks the forty-first outing. The concept behind this event is as simple as the name. They call it “The Annual.”
Every year is the same. They meet early in the day, load up the boat with drinks and nibbles and start out. No destination in mind. No time schedule to meet. Just a day on the River together.
They have ventured as far down-river as Chippewa Bay, motored up-river as far as Cape Vincent and meandered around the labyrinth of islands in-between New York and Ontario.
Sometimes Mother Nature throws them a curve ball, but they have never canceled. After all, they are seasoned River Women and a little wind or rain isn’t going to keep them from a day on the River. No. They may change boats to something a little more weather tight, but the day goes on as planned.
The middle years were hard when they had more responsibilities: children and husbands and more serious jobs. Some years, The Annual was the only time they saw each other. A day on the River was just what they needed to relax, unwind, catch up and nurture their relationship.
The Annual is steeped in tradition. They have special cups made each year for the event. Each has their own position on the boat and a role that goes with it. One is always the captain, another always brings breakfast, another brings appetizers, another plans dinner and yes of course one maintains the log.
Their adventures are chronicled in a humongous three-ring-binder. Anything that happens that they want to remember is written down in The Annual Log. Forty years of memories are stuffed into that binder: pictures, memorabilia, snippets of the day’s outing. The log, like the day, is just for them. Today, as they float, they look back and take time to reminisce. The memories of The Annual have become as important as The Annual itself.
But rituals aside, these five aren’t afraid to mix it up. One year someone brought a bag of hats. This year, they decided to add rocks to their outing. One of the members texted the other members to bring painted rocks for The Annual. This year as they went about they would stop and leave rocks. “Leave our calling card,” as they referred to it, in an effort to spread their cheer.
So, if next August you see a slow-moving boat full of ladies with outrageous hats and hear a lot of laughter, you might possibly have witnessed the Annual in action. Better yet, if there is a gaily painted rock on your porch step or near your dock, you know you’ve been part of a very special day forty-one years in the making: The Annual.
By Lynn E. McElfresh, Grenell Island
Lynn McElfresh has written 117 articles for TI Life. This month’s article makes us realize the importance of friendships and tradition. Lynn often writes about island life. We have learned a great deal over the years from her musings, from moving pianos to island weddings, or from plumbing problems to nature walks and now staying closely connected even months apart. To see all of Lynn’s island experiences, search TI Life under Lynn McElfresh.