It took no time at all to throw the water toys, a few towels, a couple of coolers, and the kids in my van. It was a hot and noisy thirty-minute ride. The kids talked, loudly, about what they wanted to do. Cyrus, the oldest, bugged his mother about buying tickets for the water slide. Jesse, the youngest, announced her intentions to build a sand castle. Xylina and Trinity just wanted to swim. My husband, James, harassed me about getting in the water. The open windows of the van buffeted the hot air, sending vibrations and long hair flying. I responded to it all by turning up the radio.
I felt the air cool as we pulled up to the pay station, like someone had laid a cool washrag on my forehead. I sighed with relief. Gayle directed us to spot at the far end of the parking lot.
“But aren’t we too far from the beach for Jesse? I asked.
“Well, there isn’t a beach, but we won’t have to fight the crowds. And, there is a patch of sand, a place to swim, and we’ll have the huge shade trees to keep us cool,” she said.
“Sounds good,” I said. “Let's go.”
We divvied up the gear between the children and adults. It seemed an enormous amount of things for one afternoon; two large coolers, a bag of fun noodles and water wings for Gayle’s kids, three folding chairs, and a backpack full of sand toys, towels, and a life jacket for Jesse. Gayle lead the way and in couple of minutes we were settled on a picnic table, in the far corner of the park under an English walnut tree. A squirrel scolded us, from the cool of the upper branches, for invading his peace.
In a shot Gayle’s kids were running for the water. I had to snatch Jesse up and stuff her into her life jacket; she hated the thing. She struggled and squirmed, and cried for her friends, and the second I released her, my normally scared of the water toddler, plowed in.
I watched from the bank, as the three older kids worked their magic on my little one. Being taller, they ventured further out into the water then she could easily follow, but she couldn’t stand being left behind, and tried to go anyway. In a matter of minutes, my daughter, who had been “testing” her life jacket all summer, began to rely on it entirely to keep her a float. In a few more minutes, she had learned to propel herself dogie-style through the water.
“Look Mom!” she said. “I can swim!” She paddled about, her long platinum braids dragging in the water, her bronze little face and blue eyes beamed up at me, blissfully unaware of how nervous she made me. Although I could swim, I had always been terrified of swimming in large waters, like lakes.
“That’s great baby,” I said, through gritted teeth. “Don’t go out to far.”
“She can’t drown,” said my husband, James. “She knows she’s safe, relax and get in with us.”
“Maybe later,” I said, with my eyes glued to my daughter.
James jumped in with the kids and I found myself sitting alone on the bank. With the kids safe with Gayle and James, I could focus on reacquainting myself with the park I hadn’t visited in ten years. Enormous Black Cottonwoods lined the property, the ponds were cool and inviting, and the giant water slide was still the center of it all. Hundreds of local families milled about enjoying the water, or looking for a cool spot to throw down a towel. I watched a few folks here and there disappear into the waist high grasses, on the edge of the property headed toward the trails. Not much had changed except for the grand new entrance off of State street, and that didn’t seem complete, as there was no way to access it yet.
“Mom!” yelled Jesse, pulling me out of my thoughts. “Look fish. Help me catch one.”
I stood up and grabbed her sand pail. I showed her how to submerge the bucket, and then use her hand to shoo to minnows into the bucket. In a couple of seconds she’d caught herself a mini smallmouth bass. She called it her “fishywishy.”
Gayle hauled herself out of the water and made us lunch, turkey sandwiches, chips, and cantaloupe. We all sat at the picnic table under the gracious branches of an old Black Cottonwood. The kids wolfed their food and then, the herd was back in the water splashing, swimming, and yelling.
Then my troubles began. James stood in the water up to his chest. Cyrus the oldest climbed onto his back, monkey style, until his feet were squarely planted onto my husband’s large, extremely white, and hairy shoulders. James slowly sunk into the water until Cyrus and he were both submerged, then he exploded from the water. The child on his shoulders was catapulted through the air like a cannon ball. Even the baby tried it once, but when she came up sputtering with water in her eyes, she called for her mommy.
“Mommy, I want you,” she sobbed.
“Your baby wants you,” said James, grinning from ear to ear. “You can’t disappoint your daughter, and the only way to show her there is nothing to be afraid of is to get in.”
The other children joined in, goading me into the water. The stricken look on my daughters face eventually drew me in. I swam across the thirty-foot channel, head above the water, while I shivered in fear. I popped up on the other side with a big smile on my face.
“See,” I said, wiping the water from my face. “Its OK, Mommy’s here.” My beautiful toddler leaped into my arms; I was a hero to my three year old.
|Jesse at Eagle Island - 2010 |
|An Eagle Island View - 2010|