Photo © Ian Coristine/
 You are here:  Back Issues      Archive

Counting Down the Days…


For me, there are only three seasons: Pre-River Season, River Season and Post-River Season. Pre-River Season starts January 1st. That’s when the countdown starts. As of today’s posting, the magic number is 58 days until we return to the river.

Perhaps not everyone is as formal as I am about when the countdown begins, but I know from recent correspondence with fellow islanders that I’m not the only one counting the days. Even my nine-year-old granddaughter, Alison (a sixth-generation islander) is counting the days.

Last summer, Alison arrived on the island on a mission. Minutes after she got off the boat, she asked the question, “Do I still have to wear my life jacket on the island? I can swim now! Really, I can!”

Island life means that toddlers and young children need to be watched very carefully. The rule when my kids were growing up was: they didn’t go out the door unless they were wearing their lifejacket.

My mother-in-law told me that when my husband was a toddler, she put him in a harness and tied him to a tree! I guess that was common practice on the island in the 1950’s, but might prompt a call to Child Protective Services if that were to happen today.

So a test was devised. If Alison could jump off one end of the dock, swim around the boat and climb out on the other side of the dock, she didn’t have to wear her lifejacket on the island. My daughter got in the water to lend encouragement. Alison jumped in and swam easily to the ladder. Success!

A few days later, we went for a walk without the obligatory lifejacket. On our way around the island, we saw Hope Figliolino and her three little ones, each snug in their tiny lifejackets. Alison paused and looked at them as they walked past us. “I remember when I used to have to wear a lifejacket all the time,” she said, as if that day had been long ago and far away.

Who knows what milestones Alison is dreaming of for the 2010 River Season…which for her is only 147 days away.

By Lynn McElfresh

Lynn McElfresh is a regular contributor to TI Life. She and her husband, Gary, winter in Dunedin, Florida and spend their summers in the Thousands Islands on Grenell Island.   Lynn is the author of Can You Feel the Thunder? published in 1999 in New York by Simon & Shuster Children's Publishing Division. It is suggested for youth ages 10-14.  She is also the ghost writer for several other children’s books.

Posted in: Sports
Please feel free to leave comments about this article using the form below. Comments are moderated and we do not accept comments that contain links. As per our privacy policy, your email address will not be shared and is inaccessible even to us. For general comments, please email the editor.


Thornley Stoker
Comment by: Thornley Stoker ( )
Left at: 11:19 PM Sunday, March 14, 2010
Lyn I like the "tethered to a tree idea" but I think child services would applaud any efforts to keep children alive! When our hellions were growing up on Tremont we used to jump every time we heard a screen door slam. It was usually our eldest heading for the dock (with his life jacket on!)

Thornley Stoker
Linda Twichell
Comment by: Linda Twichell ( )
Left at: 8:47 AM Monday, March 15, 2010
Loved your measure of time... I liken it to going round the dark side of the moon...We too are counting down the days... Last year our boys started a new tradition... Jumping in while the ice was still on the water. Let's see if they try it again!
PS. We are awaiting #2 of our sixth generation in Westminter Park. Due on the fourth of July!
Peter Hendley
Comment by: Peter Hendley ( )
Left at: 12:43 PM Monday, March 15, 2010
Ah yes, we too are starting to count the days. I've gotten two big bags of stuff we'll be taking this year including a lacrosse stick for our "Warrior." River webcams show no ice at all so I've been wondering if Dave and Carol Nims are already on Grenell?
Last year, our 5 year old granddaughter didn't have to wear a lifejacket on the dock since she too passed her swimming test. Of course she always had a watchful father nearby. It is going to be another wonderful River summer!
Carolyn McCarney
Comment by: Carolyn McCarney ( )
Left at: 4:19 PM Monday, March 15, 2010
Lyn, I loved your story. I think my parents devised a mission to keep us all busy. We spent our summers on Belabourer island and my uncle and family were on Wyoming Island (the little red village). When we thought we were ready to take any of the boats out alone,we had to swim from one island to the other without a life jacket and being followed by the big row boat. It was a terrific moment when each of us got to the dock on Wyoming, being met by friends and family. Big cheers all around. The funny thing was that there was no boat waiting there to take out alone! Everyone needed a ride back. Great memories. Thank you.