Monday, May 16, 2011

Water Works

If you're not one to grin when you see a couple of heads being knocked together now and then, arms and legs flying in all directions, and hands hanging on for dear life to the handles and rope of a big inner tube being pulled across a large body of water by a fast boat; well, you might have something wrong with you.

Because that sort of thing is just plain funny.

Especially when it's a bunch of squirrelly young boys from your church, around the age of thirteen or fourteen... and one of them is your nephew.

None of them wanted to fall off. All of them seemed to have something to prove. To who? We don't know, because not a person I've seen can possibly keep their dignity on such a craft. Cheeks flap. Hair whips around your face and beats you to death. Uncontrollable screaming, laughing, and other things happen, much to our horror. You're better off just to let go of your pride at the exact moment that you board the tube, and forget you ever had it. Those that don't are sorry in the end.

It's the reason the adults go to so much trouble for these sorts of activities; to get the kids to loosen up and to stop being so into themselves for a few hours. It's then that they're reachable. It's then that they're more likely to open up if they have problems. We see sides of the kids that we've never seen before, like the boy that didn't want to get on the boat much, he just wanted to wear a lifejacket and float in the lagoon for hours on end. We'd see his little head and think he was going out too far, but none of us wanted to 'reel' him in, either, respecting his time alone. When I thought about it, I realized that he lived in a home with a lot of people entering and exiting, and that the solitude might have been his version of Heaven. Well, let him have it, then.

Kids that won't even look you in the eye in the church building on Sunday are suddenly all smiles, once you take them out of the same old setting and throw some water and sun into the mix. This makes every penny in fuel and food spent well worth it.

Personalities are more easily observed from a lake than from a pew. The lanky blond kid that lives down the street never even came in off the boat to eat, and he never stopped smiling, either. With three boats going, he just went from one to the other to the other in order to be in on the non-stop action. Most of these kids didn't have access to boats very often, and Nate was making the best of it.

We mommies spent a lot of the time under a tarp, out of the sun, which was not my preference, but to be social I felt I had to join them in the shade. Before long we were cackling with laughter like a bunch of old hens. I was told someday this would happen to me. My preference was to be in the water, however.

I talked one of the younger ladies into trying out the lake, and being a very 'game' sort, she went in with me, followed by another more mature woman, who was worried about the 'ickies' in the lake. I must confess I wasn't helping her out with that; I was adding to the list of possibilities of what all could be in there, enjoying the process until I decided I'd better stop or I'd perhaps get dunked.

"We're washable!" I finally stated, and left it at that.

Later in the day, we would find this woman who loathed the 'icky' liquid on water skis in the middle of the lake, it having been years since she'd done that sort of thing. Her daughter, on another boat, would see her mother going by behind the craft and be joyous for her mom. There is just something very beautiful about an adult at play. We need it as badly as the children do.

Soon one of our boats came in, and the driver offered us a ride on it. The younger lady, who was his daughter, and I took him up on it, hopping into the front of the boat and finally getting a chance to stretch out in the sunshine with the gleaming water under us.

The vessel was teeming with teenage boys, all scrambling for their turn on the huge tube. First there were only two boys on the tube, my neighbor being one of them. The driver, Mr. Stark, gave them a wild ride. I was amazed that they could stay on at all, the way they were being flung around the lake.

When two girls got on the tube, I realized that the style of Mr. Stark's driving became very different. There were a few bumps here and there, from crossing over a mild wake or two, but nothing too extreme. The girls rode differently, too, in that girls are not afraid to touch on a tube; they interlocked arms and shared tube handles for a better grip, working together. You will rarely see a bunch of boys doing that. They were having an exciting ride, in their form of 'exciting', and it was all good. Mr. Stark went very easy on them and didn't try anything that might alarm them or scare them away from the sport for the rest of their lives. When they were done, they unloaded delicately and boarded the boat once again, refreshed and happy.

Then four boys got on the tube.

It was an unwritten rule that to fall off was a shameful thing. If any of them could help it, they weren't going to go over the edge.

Too bad the skinny one "Jason", didn't fight for a middle position. To be hanging out on the sides was a big mistake. Especially when someone twice his size was right next to him. It was going to be bad.

I have to hand it to him, he put up a stupendous fight. So many times as they were flying across the water, we'd see the bottom half of both of Jason's legs, dragging in the water behind the tube. His face would disappear from sight as he slowly lost ground from the front of the tube, to the back. But then, miraculously, he'd suddenly reappear on the next corner, right up front again. I imagined that he was using the bigger boy next to him for leverage, and crawling up his back to a more secure spot.

Proof of this came to light when the two of them, skinny and husky, went flying off the tube. When we circled back around to get them, Jason waved us off and climbed right back onto the tube, but the huskier boy was hesitant.

"I lost my shorts!" he yelled.

Jason, in his determination to stay on the tube and desperate for something to grip, chose the wrong item, apparently. He de-pantsed his friend.

Not one to miss out on the fun, due to the wrong wardrobe, the husky boy, figuring he had one more layer left, hopped back on the tube with the other three guys. The spectators in the boat applauded over our laughter, and Mr. Stark resumed pulling them around the lake once more.

Meanwhile in another boat of our's, my daughter and her friend commented as the boys went past them on their tube that 'one of those shorts was not like the others'....and they figured out the situation pretty fast, and began to laugh, too.

The husky boy told us later that he didn't mind losing those shorts; they were old and had been getting a little to small for him, anyway.

"Not small enough!", had been my comment.

The boys got out for a moment and squished into the front of the boat with us. All but one. My nephew hung back. I realized why very quickly...the only space left to sit was right next to me, his aunt. Instead, he stood. Even when the boat was moving. He stood right in the middle of the front, apparently relying on his good sense of balance.

"SIT DOWN!!!" Mr. Sharp finally yelled at him, because his body was directly blocking his view and he had to be able to see.

Nephew looked worried for a moment, and looked from the space beside me, then back at his feet....and then he....hunched. Right between the space where the windshield ends and there is a corridor. With his back against one side, and his knees against the other, it made a ridiculous picture. This discomfort he would rather do than to sit next to family and lose a portion of perceived 'coolness'. Oh, brother.

"Okay, I'll tell you what we're gonna do," said Mr. Stark, "My group needs to head back to get home. But before we do, we're going to have us a little contest. The last one on the tube wins."

Four teenage boys, including the Neighbor, gave a hearty 'YEAH!!!' from the tube. They were up for the challenge.

He didn't go easy on them. They flew from one side of the boat to the other, flying over wakes, banging heads and body parts together. You could tell they might have screamed otherwise, but dignity and a boat full of watching spectators would not allow that. Their eyes told the story, however. Big as frisbees. Sometimes all four mouths would form a perfect "O" at the exact same time.

Mr. Stark, who I had always thought was a mild guy, was a passive aggressive. When he'd see the boys bonking together on the tube in his rear view mirror, he'd grin and toss his head back a bit in this funny little laugh. Not evil, mind you...but dangerously close. When they were airborne, he'd do the same. When they were barely hanging onto the tube with all fours, he outright smiled, showing almost all teeth. So much for the humble image I had of this man with his suit and tie at church. He was enjoying the torture of these guys. Very much so.

My neighbor, on the other side of the tube, started off not even hanging on. He would frequently hold up his hands for those in the boat to see, as if showing off that his balance was such that holding on with his mere hands would be overkill. A stark contrast from our friend Jason on the other side, whose arms and legs flailed non-stop.

The 'contest' went on for quite a while, with some impressive boating maneuvers from our driver. He knew every trick. That the boys held on as long as they did was commendable. But it was time to go.

With one quick yank of the wheel, which led to a yank of the tube....three bodies went flying.

And the one left?.....Would be the last person who, personality-wise, needed another sports victory. That would be my cocky little neighbor. Who we promptly applauded. Applauded, that is, until his held up his one pointer finger in the air, to signify that he, indeed, was number one. We 'little people' knew it, and so did he and the entire free world. He was the one to ride with no hands. He was the one that never fell off. He was the one that was left on the tube to laugh at his friends in the water. He was......

In one deft move, Mr. Sharp gave the Neighbor a brisk little wave, then jerked the boat forward without any warning to the boy, who still had his one hand and pointer finger in the air, making it impossible to hang on....and sent him flying several feet back behind the tube, in a tremendous, sprawling, and very fumbling SPLASH.

"I thought he was getting a little full of himself," Mr. Stark said simply.

The memory of that moment will live on in my mind for a very, very long time.

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