April 12, 2009
The warm vacations that we spent lazing around as a family on rented houseboats were the very best. My mom would be crazy with all the organizing and meal planning and preparation that it takes to sustain a family of five (with a few added barnacles in the form of friends) for a whole week out on the water. There were mountains of ice chests and life jackets, bulky guitars and fishing poles, gobs of gummy snacks and sunblock. There were plenty of card games and bags of beef jerky. There were those little cigars that my dad loves and my mom hates.
Everyone would be feeling the stress of all the packing and the driving and the dealing with the greasy gatekeeper-of-a-man in the decaying rental shack near the water's edge. And then there was the chore of loading all of our mountains of stuff onto the boat. Back and forth, like little ants, we were... armful after armful... stocking up our new buoyant home as if that little houseboat were returning us to the mother land. Or rounding the Cape of Good Hope.
But then, oh then! Like a mini landrush, we'd all pile on board and quickly stake our claim. Mine was always the reclineable deck chair planted firmly on the roof.
Someone would untie the thick wet rope from the cleat, place their foot upon the wooden finger of a dock sticking out from the earth, and shove us off.
There is something so cozy about floating along in the warm lagoons on a vessel that holds your entire family. You're all captives together, seeing as how there are no emergency escape pods anywhere, and the sun shining down warms all your shoulders evenly. Quiet brothers become silly friends. Tired mothers become diving partners. Hardworking fathers become your laughing captain.
And you? You become the best version of yourself. Because all the laughter in your ears is like nourishment and it fattens you up. And the stars in the inky black sky every night stuff your breaths right back down into your chest from the wonder of it all. You are feeling quite full, actually.
I think of these days often. I think of the security I felt from having all of us together, in the same boat. I've never felt anything so grounding as that in all of my life.
I think of the time that our large raft got caught up in a gust of wind and started to drift away from the boat. About how I thought I could be the hero and swim after it by myself... bringing it back like a conquered foe. I swam and I swam- the raft just inches from my grasp, but slipping further away with every moment. I didn't hear my mother's desperate cries, telling me to swim back, swim back, swim back. To leave the raft to the wind and turn back to the safety of the boat. Before I knew it, I was too far. Too far from the raft. Too far from the boat.
And suddenly very, very tired.
In the moment just before the tightening panic was about to wrack my body, I felt a firm grip on my arm. It was my brother, come to rescue me. Come to bring me back. I hadn't even heard him approaching. I felt the relief of that strong grip wash over me from head to toe as I held tight to my brave face and lied and assured everyone that I had been in complete control the whole time. My mother cried. I sat panting on the deck with a towel warmed by the sun wrapped around my shoulders. And I felt retrieved.
And this feeling, attached to this childhood memory, is forever what Easter will mean to me.
God... the One who dove in after us.