Thursday, 31 July 2008
The landing stage
We’d get such a kick out of our trips on the dinghy. Mum always made us don lifejackets, and dad told us not to fuss. He said ‘it’ll all be worth it once we get out there’.
He was always right, of course. The moment the motor croaked into life and the boat started to wobble and then pick up speed, Emma and I would immediately stop our moaning and grab hold of the sides of the boat with mounting anticipation. We’d babble between each other to show our excitement: a strange and incoherent language that must have puzzled our parents, if they were even listening.
This ceased altogether once we left the harbour. Silence thereafter, until the speed reached levels where we’d bump and fly atop crests of surf. Such leaps would produce short squeals and other emanations of surprise and excitement. Exhilaration is all the more amazing and easily arrived upon for the young, I think.
Once though, on one of our summer boat rides, I decided to jump overboard. I’ll never know why, for sure. I think I wanted to see just how safe the lifejackets were. Very safe, as it turned out.
I plopped into the sea and the orange float kept me bobbing where I fell. My dad calmly slowed and then turned his vessel, bringing it alongside before easily fishing me out of the water.
I sat silently and listened to them talking. Everyone thought I’d just fallen out of the boat as it hit a larger wave and my mother severely chastised my father for going too fast.
He couldn’t say it wasn’t true; he loved to take us faster. He seemed to get a real kick out of hearing the excitement levels building to a roar behind him.
He accepted the shame and we headed back to the landing stage. I kept quiet while my mum held me close to keep me warm. She tried to dry me with her cardigan.
Everyone seemed in shock when we climbed out onto the wooden jetty. I felt awful, but could do little now except go along with the subterfuge. I sat in the middle of the landing stage, a towel wrapped around me, and started to cry.
Within seconds the family gathered round, rubbing my shoulders, telling me it was all okay now. I sensed it was now, okay, or at least that it would be alright again, soon.
Then, to my great shame, as I noticed the disapproving glances being fired in my father’s direction, I looked up with watery eyes primed and asked if I could please have an ice cream.
They bought me the biggest one in the shop.