Last evening was quite adventuresome for me. We took a lovely drive up to a small inland lake where my cousin has a cottage. We were planning on being able to go out for a ride on his boat and have some burgers on the grill. An altogether pleasant way to spend some time on the long Labor Day Holiday weekend.
Anyone who knows me, knows I tend to be a bit of a cowardly thing. I have been known to be so frightened by a kiddie roller coaster, that I can barely walk once I disembark from the ride. If there happens to be a bat fluttering around in our garage, my husband now knows that it is useless to ask for my help. When called upon for assistance in removing the bat, I bravely walked out into the garage and said, "I don't deal with spiders, what makes you think I'll deal with a bat?" As the bat dive bombed me, I hastily retreated back into the house, figuring I could call for help if necessary.
Anyone who knows me also knows I also tend to trip, fall, and spill in large and awkward ways whenever I go to gatherings. One of my mother's favorite stories has to do with a family reunion we went to when I was 8. She had packed multiple changes of clothes along with the potato salad she was to bring. My grandfather questioned the necessity of all the extra shoes, shirts, and pant. He grumbled as he pointed out that we weren't babies any more. After the picnic lunch, I wandered around a pond with all the other little cousins. And I was the only one that tripped, fell in the cold waters, and was completely soaked. As my mother triumphantly pulled a towel out to dry me, before changing my outfit, she said, "This is why I pack all those clothes."
So, I had my bathing suit on under my clothes, not because I expected to go in the water, but because I figured if anyone would fall out of the boat, it might be me and I best be in a suit and have a change of clothes along. When my cousin offered up the idea that anyone of us could ride the tube behind their boat, I shivered at the idea and shook my head. My little second cousin asked if I had a swim suit along. I said, "Yes. But I didn't actually mean to be in the water." My cousin said I should try it, I would like it.
My brother was enthused. He was already putting on a life jacket. I was busy scanning the images in my mind, of me having my arms ripped out of their sockets, of me flying off the tube and slamming into a tree on shore, and one of me flinging off the tube into the path of another boat. And then I said, "Okay. I'll go."
And my family, being quite clever, got me into a life jacket right away and said,"Ladies first" so I didn't have time to think to much or change my mind.
And then, once I was finally situated on the tube, the most amazing thing happened. I had an absolutely fabulous time. Skimming over the water, bumping along in the wake of the boat, gliding past all the activities that happened on shore, and bumping into my brother's tube next to me as we flew into a turn turned out to be magnificent. My arms were stronger than I suspected. I could hold on for dear life and have fun, all at the same time.
I actually went out on two rides around the lake on the tube. Then we went around for a leisurely boat ride as the sun was setting, and then it was time for some of the best grilled burgers I have ever eaten. After we finished our meal, my cousin led the way out back to where they have one of the biggest fire pits I have ever seen. Consequently, he built one of the largest fires I have ever seen. We all gathered around the fire to make smores and started to tell stories.
My cousin told us about times he spend with our grandfather, the one I never knew since he passed away before I was born. He told us about fishing with him and what his cottage had been like. We talked about one of the haunted mansions that is in a local resort community and our experiences there. We talked about amusement parks, Halloween costumes we have known, and just an assortment of other things.
As our words flowed back and forth around the fire, you could really feel the communal sense of family growing among us. It reminded me of my belief that everyone has a story to tell and that everyone I meet has a story worth listening to as well. It reminded me how the sharing of our stories is what helps bind us together in a community-across the barriers of time and distance. I am glad to have these moments to add to my family chapters of my story.