Shirley Palmer – A Marriage Crisis

My husband and I just celebrated our 55th Anniversary – some might say it’s a “miracle”, other close friends knew we’d be together forever. We both are pretty even tempered, not screamers or shouters – through out the years when a problem arose, it was usually silence that took over our abode. However, we learned early on not to hold grudges and how to kiss and make-up. A few problems with kids etc, but other than that things went along rather smoothly for about 14 years.

I am pretty sure it was in our fourteenth year that our life took a sudden turn – and not for the good!! We bought a boat so that we could take our kids water skiing for our vacations and long week-ends!! What a perfect plan. But let me be the first to tell you, if you want to break-up a happy marriage, bring a trailer into their life.

We picked up our boat which we had purchased used from some friends, drove home and my husband backed it down the driveway and put the boat in the back yard. We worked on it after work at night and on week-ends – it was in need of some T.L.C. I cut up an old terrycloth bathrobe and took some beach towels and made seat covers – they looked really neat and I was so proud.

We decided to make our first outing up to Big Bear Lake as it was close and we were familiar with the lake. We hauled the boat behind our station wagon and when we got to the boat launching ramp I was given a choice of backing down the ramp, then we’d release the boat & the other person would move the boat out of the way of other launchers and the driver would take the trailer up and find a parking place.

I tried backing down the ramp and my husband (the outside guide) was YELLING – not that way – go the other way and I’d change my steering and all of a sudden I’d hear NO – NO. – you are going all wrong. So I put the brake on – got out of the car and told my husband – with a smile on my face, “Fine – you back it down – I’ll take the boat off the trailer!” We switched and he backed it down with ease, we got it off the trailer and luckily I was able to hold it by the rope on the bow. Car and trailer parked we all jumped into the boat – husband (Bud), me, son and daughter (who was caring her favorite doll). We had our picnic lunch and buzzed up and down the lake like real professionals. By late afternoon the wind started to come up, so we decided it was time to get off the lake and head home.

Since I had already failed my backing up skills with a trailer, my husband said he would get out – go get the trailer and back it down and I was left with the kids in the boat to drive it into shore – supposedly landing perfectly onto the trailer bed, we’d attach and then get out of the way of others and make our final tie downs and be on our way. Bud backed the trailer down while I was just cruising out from the launching area. All of a sudden my daughter’s doll’s head fell off and almost fell overboard – I jumped to save the head and when I got back into the driver’s seat the engine had gone dead. I tried & tried to get it started – ofcourse both kids were giving me advise about what I was doing wrong – FINALLY that engine took hold and we were off heading toward Bud and our trailer waiting for us on the launching ramp!

Well I’d be aiming right for the trailer and just before we’d hit it a gust of wind would come and we’d be way out of line. Finally after about 5 attempts my husband was standing on the beach yelling “I’m RIGHT HERE” – and I was in the boat yelling just as loud – ‘I CAN SEE YOU – I’M NOT BLIND” I think it took about a dozen tries and finally Bud and two other men (who felt sorry for Bud I’m sure) waded out and when we came in – still not perfect they grabbed the boat and physically forced it onto the trailer.

We’d learned a very important lesson about our marriage. I had just proven I couldn’t back up the trailer and I didn’t do that well driving the boat, so the only solution, if we were to continue with this activity, we must find another couple to join us and let the men do the launching and backing up of trailers. In later years I became a good boat driver, but the sight of a trailer still makes me ill!!

So we found friends to join us and things went pretty smoothly after that. Then we got a bigger and heavier boat – to heavy for me to hold by a rope alone any longer. I needed a dock, wherein I could kneel down and hold the boat in until Bud came to take over the driver’s seat. One day we went up to Castiac Lake on the Ridge Route. Our friends were to meet us up there and Bud backed the boat down and there were lots of boats launching that day – it was very crowded. I couldn’t hold the boat by myself, so he asked me if I could drive the truck and trailer up and park it.

I knew I could do that – driving forward was not the problem, it was backing up the trailer. So I got in the truck and I had to drive way up to the top of the hill to park, which was a very steep and long. I drove up and had to turn left to get into the parking lane. I cut it a little short and low and behold the trailer hit one of those big huge trash drums. It was knocked over and it started rolling down the hill, gaining speed the further it went – all the way spewing it’s contents all over the parking lot.

I got out of the truck to lock it – unaware of what had happened. I saw this barrel rolling down the hill, but I didn’t have a clue that I was involved! I was locking our truck when the Park Ranger came up to me and said, “Nice job little lady!!” I said “excuse me – for what?” Perhaps I was getting a compliment on my good parking job, was going thru my mind! He went on to explain that I had clipped the trash barrel and it was now my responsibility to go down to the waters edge, get the barrel and pick up all the trash along the way and bring it back up to the top where it had been.

By this time our friends had arrived and they knew I was in trouble. I couldn’t even lift the damn barrel – but bless Bart’s heart, he said, ‘come on – I’ll help you’ – we went down and it took us almost an hour to get that sucker refilled and back up on top. Most of the contents had been dirty diapers, which absolutely finished my day.
And so – we learned how to cope with our (I should say my) inefficiencies, stay friends and save our marriage. I’ve been told many times to back up a trailer just turn the wheel the opposite way, however I thought I was doing that and it just didn’t work for me. The secret to a long and happy marriage – always have friends around that can help you out of those “tough spots”.

Through the years we’ve had hours of entertainment just sitting in our lawn chairs in a campground watching husbands & wives trying to park a motorhome or trailer. Likewise sitting on the shore watching others launch their boats. The most sedate people will be drawn into this “yelling mode” – it’s unbelievable, but you just can’t help it. Sometimes they are not only yelling and screaming they are swearing at each other. I often thought, “Oh, but by the Grace of God, there go I”!! Take it from a quiet one whose been there – done that!!!

P.S. The doll head that I saved from being decapitated was one of my dolls that I’d given my daughter to play with, and it was by far her favorite. It was one of the Dionne Quintuplet babies – I think I had Marie, but Teri had named her Julie!. We still have her, and now they are quite valuable, I’m told!!

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9 Comments on “Shirley Palmer – A Marriage Crisis”

  1. VIV RAY Says:

    Loved this story. Sounded vaguely familiar. We had several boats in past years, I did not know how to drive it, I did not know how to back the truck at the launch ramp, All I was good for was to be a passengar. Worked for me.

  2. Gloria Says:

    Hey Shirley,
    Great article and it sounds just like the stories I have heard with you and Bud. I really think you should write a book. Love ya, Gloria

  3. Jackie Says:

    Loved the story, I guess we all have those memories. Especially loved
    the silent periods. We never had a boat but we rented several trailer
    when the kids were about the same age as your kids. Thanks for
    the walk down memory lane.
    Keep up the writing. Lu

  4. Denis & Bernie Says:

    Hi Shirley..congratulations..very well done and I am sure most who read it will be able o associate with it. Keep on writing and keep on posting,

  5. Congratulations on 55 years of marriage.

    Great story. Though we are 30 years behind you marriage wise, we have many similar.

    This is a great blog, I’ll be back.

  6. Jonal Beck Says:

    What a boat can do to a marriage.

    But didn’t it make you closer?–especially your kids and their friends?

  7. Deborah W Says:

    A natural story teller!!!!!! Would love to read (or hear) more! NPR eat your heart out!

  8. Marlene Caetano Says:

    This was so refreshing to read! Shirley, you missed your calling you should have been a writer. You have such a natural talent in writing but yet there is so much excitment in reading that you want to keep on reading. It is never to late to write/create a book. I look forward to more of your writings. Most important your experiences made you a strong and loving woman. How many families can honestly say that they took time out to enjoy the outdoors together? You have the gift of writing please continue to share!

  9. Bill and Bonnie Says:

    That was absolutely hysterical….. haven’t laughed so hard since the last story….. so so good….. you write so well….. keep publishing…. love Bonnie and Bill

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