When I was a child my family traveled to Maine many times each summer. My grandparents had a summer home on a lake. We called it The Magic Camp because so many magical things happened there. I’ll never forget the time something not so magical happened.
On one summer visit we brought our neighbors, Mary and Barry, with us. They didn’t have any children so it was just the two of them. My mom and dad were friends with them and wanted to share all the special things we did at The Magic Camp. One activity was canoeing. My dad and Barry planned a “guys” adventure on the lake.
The small wooden dock jutted into the lake just a little ways from in front of the camp. My dad was wearing his bright pink, orange and purple floral bathing suit that is still ingrained in my memory. First, they loaded a cooler with some beverages into the canoes and then they eased their way in themselves. The canoe rocked back and forth in an unsteady fashion as small splashed of water sprayed up between the boat and the dock. My sister and I watched with curiosity. On top of the two seats were square cushions that doubled as a flotation device. Both my dad, sitting in the back, and Barry, in the front, held wooden paddles. Waving good-bye, they pushed away from the dock and began paddling away down the narrows of the lake. I stood still on the dock watching them paddle away and listening to the loud roar of my father’s voice.
In just a moment I became bored and returned to the shore with my sister and did what we did best. We made “witches stew” in buckets with pine needles, rocks, dirt and lake water. We carefully turned it with a stick as we chanted magical witch spells. We swung on the hammock and watched the lazy clouds in the sky, swam in the lake, ate, lunch, played board games and waited for my dad and Barry to return from their adventure.
We waited and waited and waited. Finally we walked down to the dock to wait thinking that surely they would return soon. We couldn’t wait to hear their stories. I looked out across the shimmering water and noticed a distant object in the water.
“Anna, what do you think that is? A loon? Is someone swimming way out there?” I asked my sister.
“Oh, I see that! I think it might be Dad and Barry,” Anna replied with excitement in her voice.
How could it be? I thought. Where is the canoe? My heart started to race. I searched the water; my eyes scanning rapidly, looking for clues. Clues that might identify the “blob” as my precious father. What if that is my dad? What if he drowns? He would be tired of swimming. I don’t think he had on a life jacket. He could be hurt. A million different terrifying thoughts raced through my mind. Yet, my sister didn’t seem worried in the least.
As we stood there, squinting, the “blob” came closer and closer and eventually I could make out the tip of the green canoe poking out from under the water. I could see two small heads on either side bobbing along. Small splashes sprouted up on each side of the canoe created by the arms and legs of Barry and my dad.
“Mom, Dad is swimming with the canoe! Come quickly! Something must be wrong!”
My mom dashed down to the dock. She brought her hand up to her forehead shielding her eyes from the sun as she looked out at the lake. Silently, she put her hand down and shook her head. She didn’t look the least bit nervous.
“Yes, that sure does look like Dad and Barry. They’ll make it just fine, Honey. There is no need to worry.” My mom reassured me and I believed her. We waited there in silence.
Minutes later we could her the slap of their arms on the water and the splash of their feet. As the got closer we could hear the laughing and joking. Dad and Barry climbed up on the dock laughing and full of smiles.
“What happened, Dad? You are all wet. Are you okay?” I asked. I was so worried and confused.
“Well, Barry here, didn’t know what he was doing. He leaned too far to the side and we tipped over. We couldn’t get the canoe out from under the water so we had to swim back. I’m fine, just lost my pack of cigarettes,” my dad explained with a twinkle in his eye.
Well I was young then and I did NOT understand what happened. All I understood is that Barry tipped the boat, my dad got wet and lost his cigarettes. I was so mad at Barry that I did not speak to him for the rest of the weekend and when I looked at him I swear I shot fire out of my eyes.
I know now that they were probably playing around and my dad was just teasing Barry. I know now that they weren’t in any harm at the time. I know now that it was all part of the magic of The Magic Camp. The magic of friends and the magic between a daughter and her father.