Thursday, September 24, 2009

Flash Friday - One last Memoir entry

Come along and play with us as we strive to tell stories in 55 words. Oh, it can be done. Yes, it does make your head spin sometimes but it's still fun. If you play along, make sure you let the G-Man know.

And yes, next week I'm thinking about giving you some time off from my life. I do have an imagination. Just didn't have time to put it into high gear this week.

As the gigantic wave loomed, Dad pointed at the float’s rope handles, ordering “Don’t let go!”

It flipped, grinding her repeatedly against the shell strewn ocean floor, but she held tight.

Leaning on the float, he called frantically.

Someone kicked him. Startled, he let go.

“You said hold on,” she sputtered, surfacing from beneath it.

Ah, family lore. This one is affectionately known by me as “The Day Dad Tried to Drown Me”. My Dad loved the water. He didn’t just enjoy swimming, he’d body surf in the ocean. Dad was like a shark in the water. I was not. In fact, I didn’t learn how to swim until I was 12. Another story, another day. [Or not. It was humiliating].

Every summer our family [of 4 at that time], plus Dad’s parents and sister rented a house at the beach for a week. It was one of the best parts of childhood. We’d take an early morning walk on the beach and when we returned, Grandma would be cooking breakfast. I’ve never liked coffee, but if I smell coffee brewing and bacon sizzling early in the morning, I swear I can smell the ocean.

Part of our fun with Dad the Shark was that he’d take my younger sister and I out, put us on a float, somehow maneuver us atop a wave and let us ride it in. Chauffeured surfing, as it were. I don’t know how he stood it, between the little girl screams [water in our face], giggles [of delight] and water [in his face when he took the brunt of the waves to protect us].

Back then floats were not flimsy, air filled pieces of cheap plastic. Oh no, they were industrial strength and rather heavy for something surprisingly buoyant. I can still see those old red and blue floats that made the trip with us each year. Their surface was some sort of tough cloth-like material and running down both sides was a two inch lip with grommets, through which ran a thin piece of rope. Not cord. Rope. The idea was that you could snag the float from practically any angle, get a hand on a rope section and keep it from floating away. The most amusing part of it was the pumping system used to inflate the float. On one corner was the shape of a foot; when you continuously pumped your foot up and down on it, it inflated the float. Never seen one since.

The above story occurred when I was 6 or 7. I was always a tiny kid, but I loved riding that float, in spite of the water powering it. I can still see Dad’s look of concern mixed with dread as that wave crested. I know now, as an adult, that it was going to break right across the back of the float, launching me who knows where. Back then, I only knew [a] Dad was a water creature [b] Dad had been in the Navy and [c] Dad thought the ocean was a fun place to play. So when he told me, “Hold on and don’t let go!” my faith as a child in a parent made me do just that.

Unfortunately for me, the last thing I did was slide my tiny hands beneath the ropes on either side of me and loop them around my hands.

The wave hit, I flipped and the ride began. I was one of those kids who didn’t like to open her eyes under water. Especially salt water. But after my butt scraped and bounced across that broken shell strewn ocean bottom while the float pounded me on the head, I opened my eyes. It was like being in a blender and I didn’t know which end was up. So I held my breath for an eternity and tightened my grip on the ropes. In reality, “eternity” was probably all of 30 seconds.

Suddenly I could hear Dad calling my name, first stern and paternal, then with concern bordering on fear. I tried to stand up, but I couldn’t. I knew I was sitting on sand and the water wasn’t deep but I couldn’t stand up. The harder I tried, the more frightened Dad sounded.

And then I saw them. Dad’s legs. Dad had captured the float and was holding it down to visually search for me. What ingrate of a child wouldn’t answer a concerned parent? The one stuck under the float, holding on to those danged ropes.

So I kicked him.

I was pretty sure I’d get the spanking of my life for kicking Dad, but I figured maybe the fact I’d held on would counteract that. Instead I got hugged. Really tight. After I finished sputtering, we laughed. Hard. The funny thing was I’d been too mad at not being able to stand up to think about being underwater…the place I feared most.

And so for years, whenever anyone mentioned playing in the ocean, I would grin at my father and say, “Yeah. Well just don’t ask Dad to hold on to your float for you.”

The original Pushme-Pullyou sisters.

That's me on the left, Sis on the right.
And yes, that's one of THOSE floats!

Dad, circa 1962
Don't you just love those classic 1960s swimsuits?


Susan at Stony River said...

I loved this! Poor Dad; what a moment that must have been, and poor you until he let go. LOL

The ocean's so wonderful -- though I don't like being *in* it, just walking along it and hearing and smelling it. I would love a house on the beach, but my husband hates it for some reason. He likes Vermont. Forget THAT.

That photo of you and your sister is a treasure. And yes, I'm glad to forego any 60's beachwear thank you!

Very glad you survived, btw.

Bill ~ {The Old Fart} said...

I am not big about going in the ocean either. I can sit on a big rock along the shore listening to to the water crash on the shore. Love the fresh smell of the air, listen to the Gulls squawk at something. but getting me in the ocean, not going to happen.

Thanks for sharing this Hope, I enjoyed reading this,

G-Man said...

I love family 55's Hope...Thanks.
I love the ocean, but like everyone else, I hate being in it!
Excellent 55 My Dear..
Thanks for visiting, thanks for playing, and have a GREAT Week-End...G

hope said...

Susan, I love the smell of the ocean and I liked "riding the waves" when Dad took us out. But I had enough the day Mom was walking in ankle deep water and got stung by a jelly fish. And "Jaws" didn't help. :)

Thanks Bill. Yeah I love the sound of the surf but I'm not so sure I'd go tip toeing in like I did as a kid.

G-Man, I think I've finally driven them all nuts with the "Me" stories. Try to be more creative next week. :)

Maggie May said...

love love the swimsuit!

Akelamalu said...

What great memories though I imagine it frightened your Dad half to death at the time! Did you tell your Mum?

Thanks for reading my 55 too. :)

Mona said...

ocean is so mysterious. I wonder what unseen creatures might be there yet undiscovered!

Love the 55ve! :)

hope said...

Maggie May...that suit is a hoot, isn't it! As are those dorky hats Sis and I had on.

Akelamula: actually Mom was sitting on the beach at the time, probably entertaining Sis, who was a couple of years younger. I can still hear the fear in Dad's voice: every time he called my name, it rose a notch. Thankfully we had something to laugh at later.

Mona: I remember as a kid every time something in the ocean touched my leg, I'd pull away but I really thought about what it was...until I saw "Jaws". :) Never saw a shark off our coast but did see the occasional group of dolphins..that was fun!

Titus said...

And I love the swimsuits.
I think we call those floats "lilos" in Britain. I've looked as close as I can to the photo and I think that's what it is. Or do you have something different in America called a lilo?
I love the teensy-tiny language divide between us.

Dave King said...

Superbly told. An enjoyable read.

Dan. said...

Lovely story (as always Hope)

I think everyone has memories like these. Seemingly always involving your dad as well.

Apparently my dad saved me from drowning in the sea when I was about three. He had to jump in fully clothed, and to dry his socks out on the way home, he stuck them on the car aerial as we drove.

I love the way you write by the way.

hope said...

Titus, no I've never heard it called that, but like you, I enjoy learning "new and interesting words". :)

Thanks Dave. The memory is a lot funnier than the reality was... I can STILL feel those shells nipping at me!

Dan, you're a nice guy. {And funny too, in the best way}. You get the blue ribbon though for the visual of your Dad's drying socks. :)