Childhood traumas. Everyone has em'. Some are big and some are little...and some...we embellish...for effect. Living so close to the water growing up made me both love and fear it. It's depth and darkness still chill my insides, but it's soothing rhythm, refreshing splash and fresh scent make it one of my favorite places on Earth. I have written before about some of my playing along the river, and most of the stories are endearing except for one "near tragic" evening. It must have been evening because that is when the scaries start for me.
My older, fearless sister and Mim (our anonymous friend) were with me on the beach. It was a neighbours beach with a tempting wooden raft floating near the shore. I have no memory of why we were on the raft together. I could make something up at this point, but that would be lying. So never mind that a big black bear chased us onto it just before devouring us with it's big sharp teeth. Anyway, we were on it, singing loudly and feelin' free until it began to drift out to sea. That is when I first noticed the depth and darkness of my beloved river. Remember, rafts do not have sides to hold onto or block the view of the abyss from fearful little eyes. Not really being able to swim well yet, I started to panic. My older, responsible comrades made the executive decision to abandon raft. Now if I recall properly, it is usually women and children that are to be rescued first in these kinds of situations. I realize that we were all female and children, but leaving the wee one, trembling with fear all alone on our Titanic (with a very small "t") seems...well..just not right. I'm not bitter though.
With the first jump to shore by one of the two heroes, the raft was pushed out a bit more. Then, the second friend jumps, barely making it, but sending me and the lonely raft out to a distance impossible to clear by even Olympic long jumpers. I'll never forget the feeling as I slowly, helplessly drifted out to forever waving goodbye to my dear friends. One of whom was laughing so hysterically, I thought she was going to end up falling into the river with me. She didn't. I secretly hoped she would...revenge...and then she could swim out and rescue me. So there I was, watching my short life flash before my eyes, looking into the deep dark water...my destiny...when all of a sudden, out of those depths arose my salvation. A bronzed skinned merman reached up to carry me to shore...no...actually it was just a rope. The raft had been tied the whole time. It floated out as far as it could and the rope appeared as it tightened, anchored to a sturdy tree along the shore.
I don't recall how I got off the nightmare, all I remember is my frightened mother escorting us home to our beds...early...it was still light out...and we had company. Two cousins arrived for a visit, which was a rare treat...that we did not get to enjoy due to our delinquent behavior. My younger, innocent sister got to play with our cousins all by herself. No sharing time with the two criminals, one of whom lay guiltily and sad on her soft, safe and dry bed. How quickly we forget the gratitude and relief of being saved in light of present pleasures denied. I still fail to realize that my present raft is tied securely to a sure anchor, no matter how far I drift, what my situation "looks" like or when my illusion of a merman fails to appear.
Memories are not the most reliable sources of truth, but THAT is how I remember it :)