Don’t Go Too Far
When I was young, my family and I would often visit Kalkaska to see my grandparents, my aunt, and my uncles. Often these visits were during the summer, so my dad would ride Harleys with my grandpa, my uncle Les would take us dirt biking, and we’d spend lots of days boating or playing around on the beach. Driving out to Blue or Bear Lake was a day long adventure, all of us heading out in the morning in my grandpa’s big surfer van. I loved to boat and jet ski, but swimming was always my favorite activity when it came to the water. It felt so free, to glide through the water and feel encompassed in the warmth and the silence of being underwater, sun shining down to the floor of the lake and alighting all the fish and plants swaying in the tide.
One specific memory I have is being very little and just starting to swim, and this big floaty tube my grandpa gave me to hold onto. I remember how he kept calling out to me for swimming out too far, so I only got to swim around in the shallows with the sand all around my feet. It was warm, I could feel the sun on my back and heating up my hair, which was still the towhead blonde color from my early childhood. His frequent calls for me to stay near were frustrating to me as a child, but reminiscing shows it was nothing but love. Worry and love tied together in a deep embrace, which seems to be the core pair of emotions at the heart of the parent or grandparent and child relationship. That wasn’t my concern at the time, I simply wanted to swim out as far as my little legs could take me, but now the thought colors the memory in nice rosy shades.
The water was comfortable and warm, the sweet freshwater lake rocking me up and down as the tide came in and went out like a rhythm of breathing. My family was spread out between standing behind me on the beach, or swimming ahead of me out in the water. I still have never swam in or even touched the ocean; my lake-loving childhood has made me skittish about even the brackish waters of Lake Erie. “Bull sharks in Lake Michigan,” was a headline that broke when I was in middle school, and it put me off of the ocean and ocean bound rivers for a long time. Maybe I’ll get over it someday – that remains to be seen, in the murky veil of the future. For now, I prefer the lakes I spent so long baptizing myself in as a child, or the nice chlorinated water of pools and jacuzzies. Even if they turn me as red as a lobster, at least there’s no sharks in the hot tub. (At least not in the comfort of the real world. Let’s not talk about that ghost shark movie.)