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When I grow up: A lobsterman

Mary Claire O'Donnell | Monday, December 5, 2011

When I was younger, I wanted to be a lobsterman when I grew up. And by younger, I mean until I was about 10. And no, I didn’t want to be a lobsterwoman, I wanted to be a lobsterman — I didn’t really understand the concept of making my job title politically correct.

I had it all planned out. I was going to live in Gloucester, the town my father grew up in on the North Shore of Massachusetts. My boat’s name was going to be “The Merry Sea,” a play on my own name (I know, even at a young age, I was pretty punny). All lobstermen need distinctive buoys so they know which traps belong to them. Mine were green and blue striped. And I would drive a baby blue pickup truck, perfect for hauling around all my traps.

This dream didn’t come out of nowhere. In his youth, my father worked for one summer on the lobsterboat of a family friend, and we even still have a trap or two of his. When my siblings and I were in preschool, we always brought the trap and my dad in for our Show-and-Tell day. Using a toy lobster that squeaked when you squeezed it, he would demonstrate how the traps worked and how you caught lobsters. To a four-year-old, it was the coolest thing ever.

We also had some children’s books on lobstering. I ate those books up when I learned to read and just kept the dream alive. Actual experience in pulling traps helped fuel my desires. One of my dad’s friends from Gloucester still has traps, and often when we went fishing with him, he had to check a few traps. Okay, so it wasn’t real experience — I just did some heavy looking-on — but it meant the world to me.

It also helped that I have always loved the ocean — and lobster. I grew up for much of my life in Massachusetts and both sets of grandparents lived in coastal towns in the Northeast. My summers were spent on the beach, frolicking amongst the waves or collecting buckets of shells and sea glass. Just getting a whiff of a salty sea breeze can brighten my day. I knew I would love the life of a lobsterman, because what could be better than spending my life out on the sea?

And so, my life was planned out. Or at least my young self thought so. As I grew up and hit my teen years, I vacillated between other careers I was convinced I would have when I grew up, but I can’t remember what those were. But I can remember vividly my life as a lobsterman.

So if anyone is selling a baby blue pickup truck, I am applying for jobs and might want to revisit my childhood dreams. I’ll just dust off the lobster traps in my garage.

Contact Mary Claire O’Donnell at modonne5@nd.edu

The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.