As I clung to the dock pier, I felt the canoe slowly shift under me and then David’s quick shout before I unceremoniously plunged into the water, struggling to gain my footing on the soft lake bottom. My life vest fruitlessly hugged my chin as I surveyed our green canoe neatly inverted in front of me, still tied to the dock just a foot away.
I like to think of myself as a reasonably intelligent, rational, and coordinated individual. Add water, though, and all those sterling qualities go by the proverbial wayside. Maybe it’s the time I inverted myself in the inflated ring when I was six or the dunking I took in my teens that involved holding me under the water until I could flail my way, sputtering, to the surface. Perhaps it was that fateful spring sail on a frigid Michigan lake with my then boyfriend. Crammed into a small sailboat designed for one, we capsized when the tiller became stuck behind him. I remember the shock of the cold water and my gasping for air, certain my life was at an end. Of course it wasn’t nearly so dire, and David took me in hand, calm and reassuring as he righted the boat and pulled me back in. I’ll never forget his rakish grin as he surveyed my soaked clothes and asked, “So, would you like to sail some more or head back?” At the time, I had no idea what was so funny. “Take me back,” I said through gritted (and chattering) teeth, my dignity and appearance both in shreds.
David is now my husband of 28 years, and I can boast of having successfully evaded small floating conveyances for the duration. Despite his love of sailing, our military life (thankfully) kept us from living close enough to the water to own a boat. When we were stationed near San Francisco and had access to the Presidio Yacht Club, I participated by remaining on terra firma and watching my family sail on glorious (and intimidating) San Francisco Bay from a safe distance.
All that has changed with our move to New Hampshire. I found a home half a mile from David’s beloved Bow Lake. I urged him to buy a sailboat and promised to go with him, my traumatic memories evidently dulled over the years. We rented a dock on the lake and used it for our canoe as we readied our bargain sailboat with the swollen dagger board (which had aborted our maiden voyage by refusing to drop into its designated position, but I digress.) Our lovely green canoe harkens back to the small Michigan Lake we lived on as newlyweds. There it was a brand new apple red model that we would take out in the early evening, paddling languidly along the shore, drinking in the cool evening air — at least that is what I remember. Alas, it seems my memory is as faulty as my seaworthiness. Who knew water was so….fluid? As I stood there, soaking wet and shivering next to the inverted canoe, I’ll admit my first thought was “take me home!” David looked at me expectantly, not saying a word. Twenty eight years of marriage will change a man. I looked at him, my husband who loves the water. “Well I couldn’t get much wetter; let’s go out.”
Twenty-eight years of marriage will change a woman. I clambered back into the boat.