The morning was bright, so bright I had to squint even behind my sunglasses. Slathered in sunblock, we headed to the kayak rental booth; me, my oldest daughter (17), my two sons (11 and 13), and their buddy. My other daughter (15) had stayed behind at the travel trailer to “watch the dogs” – translation: sunbathe.
Taking four kids kayaking by myself? Crazy. But nobody ever testified in favor of my sanity.
Three yellow kayaks, and two lime green. Of course, my youngest son grabbed a lime green one. Lime green is his favorite color. Paddles in hand, we embarked on an hour-long kayak adventure toward a little island.
Right, left, right left. Paddles stabbing the water, moving along at the pace of a snail. Approximately five minutes down the lake, my youngest son, Brennan, tipped his kayak beneath a small fountain. Assuming he had done it on purpose, I gave a short lecture as we fished him from the seaweed-ish depths. Working together, we righted the green kayak, and deposited him safely back into his seat. Checked his life jacket, handed back his paddle. Off we went.
Right ,left, right, left.
“Mom?…..Mom!” My daughter, Olivia, called to me. I paddled a bit to the right, turning my little raft around to see what the problem was. “I don’t think Brennan’s kayak looks right….there’s too much water.”
I looked….there he was. My smallish son – all 68 pounds of him – frantically cupping his tiny hands in an attempt to bail the rapidly rising water from his boat. “Moooooooooooooom!” (There had to be six syllables, at least, in that one little word.) “Water, water, water!”
There was, perhaps, an inch of green still visible above the water. My heart hiccupped in my chest, and I began to paddle toward him. I smiled in what I hoped was a reassuring manner. “It’s fine. You’re fine. Just climb into your sister’s boat, and we’ll hook the sinking one to your brother’s, and take it back and get a new one. Careful….careful!”
He did land in the water. Fortunately, he is a great swimmer. And had his life jacket on. And the water was, at its deepest, maybe 6 feet deep. Brennan sputtered a bit and spun in the water for a second and finally made it to cling and eventually climb into his sister’s kayak.
Back we went (what a workout!) to the kayak rental booth. Exchanged the kayak. Turns out, the original kayak had a tiny little hole in the back that should have had a plug in it. The plug was missing, causing the boat to fill with water.
Got the replacement kayak, and the five of us turned around – AGAIN – and set off for the island – AGAIN.
Right, left, right, left. Paddle, paddle, paddle.
Finally! We’d made it. Tipping the noses of the kayaks up onto the muddy shore, the three boys jumped out and initiated a game of chase around the little island. Olivia sat in her boat, content to watch. Donovan and his friend ran and ran. Brennan slipped away from the game, and silently climbed back down the hill. Bending down, he quietly scooped a lump of mud into his hand. Reaching his tiny arm back as far as he could – like a Little League pitcher ready to fire – he launched the mud missile at Olivia. Squealing, she jumped from her seat and chased him down.
I just watched.
The two older boys hooted and hollered like war-bound Indians in an old black-and-white movie. Olivia screamed at the top of her lungs, laughing, slipping, falling, jumping back up as she chased the boys.
I blinked and – for just a split-second of time – time flew in reverse. My now 17-year-old daughter was a pig-tailed, freckled little girl with shining eyes, running around that same island, asking for a picnic lunch, initiating a game of hide-n-seek.
I blinked again, and saw the beautiful young woman she has become….the young woman who is still not too old to play chase with her little brothers.
Brennan came screeching around the corner. Strong, summer-scraped-up legs pumping in the sand, his small freckled face upturned, catching the tunnel of light that stretched between the glaring sun and the glistening lake water.
Laughter erupts from all the children, melting into one continuous echo.
My chest fills with….what is that feeling? I am filled to overflowing with…..joy. With….family. With….with belonging. With…..home.
Time freezes….for those few blissful moments, no other families, worries, or needs exist. Just my family….my heart….my everything.
Water splashes. The kids are hopping back into their kayaks, ready to go.
The moment has passed, but my heart is still so heavy, so filled up with this bit of time, I can hardly swallow.
I smile and stab at the water with my paddle.
Right, left, right, left.