Every once in a while, and probably more often than that, it’s good to do the things you talk about doing year after year. For the past several years, whenever we run into some good friends of ours, whether it be through baseball, or hockey, or how ever it is that we run into each other, the discussion invariably leads to the same thing, “you’ve got to come up to the lake with us”, or some variation of that. Yes, it’s been an open invitation, a recurring one at that. Well, over the years, schedules, availability, probably some forgetfulness on our part, among other reasons, have left us another year passed without a trip to visit on the lake. That all ended yesterday.
Last week, upon realizing that we had a pretty ‘quiet’ weekend coming up, one of the kids suggested we contact our friends about visiting them up on the lake. Well, I reached out to them via text message and they thought it was a great idea. Days passed, plans were confirmed, ideas shared, and the waiting until Saturday was all that was needed.
Saturday morning arrived, and we packed snacks, drinks, towels, and other items needed to be on the lake. Then again, not being a water, or boating person myself, I am sure we should have brought a few more items than we did. Our friends though, were amply prepared for us and themselves, and nothing was lacking as we boarded their boat at West Alton Marina on Lake Winnipesaukee, here in NH.
Now, I will readily admit that I am not comfortable in water that is any deeper than 5 or 6 feet. Really uncomfortable. I do not swim well, if you could even call it swimming. I was raised on land, with shoes on my feet. I am comfortable in the woods, and up and down mountains, but not in water. My pulse quickens and a fear that I am no longer in control hits me as soon as I drop into water that I cannot stand up and still breathe in. I point this out because it’s very real and very true, but it’s also something that I would like to get better at, or overcome. Of course, I don’t get much practice so that doesn’t help.
So as we (my wife, our three youngest children, and myself) visited with our friends and their two boys, I was quickly reminded how much we enjoy these folks. As we made our way out onto the open spaces of the lake, it was a pleasant reminder of how beautiful this place really is.
I have been on and around Lake Winnipesaukee many, many times over the years, but it had been at least 15 years since the last time I was out on the water.
Before too long, the three oldest boys, ages 16, 15, and 14, giving a month or two here and there, were ready to get out and do some tubing. The views in every direction were just gorgeous. The combination of blue sky, warm air, and huge puffy clouds, made for the perfect day on the lake.
The boys made it out onto the huge tube and took their handholds in preparation for the turbulence to come. The appealing backdrop was equalled in beauty by the smiles that were plastered across all of our faces, theirs and ours, as we watched the boys hang on for dear life, sharing in the times of their lives. It was a great time! Then, it was time for my wife and our 5 year old twins to take a turn on the tube. Before climbing out on to the tube, the twins made sure to inform the captain that he should proceed slowly and not go as fast as he had with the older boys. He did oblige.
They were quite proud of themselves when their time was up and we loaded them back on the boat. Their smiles ran from ear to ear.
With the engine off, and the boat resting in some tranquil cove on New Hampshire’s largest lake (44,586 acres), our captain thought it was a good time to cool off. Before I knew it, he jumped into the lake from the boat. His facial expressions showed just how good the dip in the lake felt. Shortly thereafter, despite my fears and what I know about myself, I said that I can’t make this trip out to the lake without cooling off myself. Of course I had no idea what the approaching afternoon held in store for me. Either way, I jumped into the lake. I had no idea how deep the water was, and I really didn’t care.
The water was such a pleasant temperature, cool enough to refresh, but warm enough not to sting or numb. I floundered a bit while trying to remain calm and be in control while I made my way back to the ladder on the back of the boat. I climbed aboard, refreshed by the waters, and relieved to be back on the boat.
From there, there was another round of tubing, or two, and everyone was enjoying their time together. Then we hit open waters for a bit as we made our way over to the area of the lake known as Winter Harbor. We found a suitable spot to drop anchor and relax for a while in the shallow depths. The water was only 11 or 12 feet deep in this spot. Once the boat was secured, and spacing was appropriate among the other boats in the area, we turned to lunch.
The captain, and Mrs. captain converted a bench seat into a nice little table, they opened hatches and hiding spots that revealed toys for play on the water, food, drinks, and all kinds of things that made the day feel like a day in the comforts of home.
The radio was playing tunes from Jimmy Buffett, and the grill was fired up. Before long, sausages and hot dogs were cooked, and chips were shared. It was a great spot, with great friends, and wonderfully tasty food as well. Everyone ate some, and as the comfort of overcoming hunger took effect, everyone looked to play in the sun, or in the water, or both. And we did.
Soon it was just after 1pm, and we had the luxury to turn the radio over to the Red Sox game (my favorite). We had the game on the radio. We had a gorgeous sunny afternoon. We had a group of folks who thoroughly enjoy each other’s company. We had the water, and the wonderful surroundings. We had time; and my, did we enjoy it.
Noodles, Sea Doo Aqua Rangers, life jackets, the tube, and various flotation devices all found their way into our myriad of hands as we explored the water around us. Kids and parents moving back and forth from the water to the boat, and around we went. Before we packed up to leave this little piece of paradise, I noticed that we had spent nearly 7 hours in the same spot. Afternoon in all of its sunny splendor led to a blue skied evening. It was just perfect. I also noticed that I had spent almost the entire time in this cove, in the water. Now, I had a noodle or two, and some strategically placed flotation devices to help me stay above water even when the twins took turns climbing on me or playing around me. I tried to expand my comfort zone a little bit, and it didn’t hurt to spend time in the water.
We had a blast in this little cove. The kids played, explored, and learned more about themselves. We talked. We caught up. We laughed. We laughed a lot. We shared stories. We exchanged examples of parenting techniques. We enjoyed the place. We enjoyed the people. We enjoyed God’s creation around us. We even noticed that the time between our visits was virtually irrelevant as we picked up right where we had left off; good friends enjoying one another’s company.
One of the boats near us started it’s rocket like engine and it scared the kids even though all parties had been given fair warning. But that lasted for only a couple of seconds before the spirit of adventure regained its siege on the youngsters.
Sometime late in the afternoon a boat approached our starboard side and was looking to anchor in the same area where we were. Our captain (in the water) helped them position their boat. They did have more than a few mishaps each with both their bow anchors and their stern anchors, which made for very funny banter between the adults on both boats. No harm done. Before long, their kids onboard (maybe five or six of them), all teenage girls, were in the water alongside our kids, including the three teenage boys. We also had a friend, a 16 year old young lady who had ridden her jet ski to the cove to meet us, who was among our group playing in the cove.
Suddenly the kids were not nearly as interested in being around us, or the boat for that matter. Kids being kids. Love it.
As the captain (also named Steve) and I were chatting with the adults on the other boat, several of whom also jumped into the water and cooled off, we told stories, we answered questions as to who we might know from their corner of the world as it related to ours. From what I could gather, the adults were from Londonderry, NH. This of course is the town where I grew up. We in fact did know some mutual folks, and conversations continued. Some of the time we were in the water, and some of the time, the captain and I were in the water while the adults were aboard their boat several feet above us. Bill and Ellen. Kevin and Rhonda. You all were a genuine treat! We had a great time spending a few afternoon hours next to you folks on stunning Lake Winnipesaukee.
Since, one of my best friends growing up was also named Steve, I smiled when I heard references to Steve1 and Steve2, or the two of us referred to as Steve². For the record, yesterday, I was Steve2. It was a lot of fun interacting with these folks and their kids.
I know we thoroughly enjoyed the humility of the situation when all of the achievements and status of life are torn away, and what remains is a group of people all treading water in a shallow cove somewhere, just trying to enjoy a perfect NH summer day. There’s something to be said for these moments and participating in them. It was spontaneous. It was real. It was hilarious. It was as it should be.
Eventually it was time for us to pack everything into the spaces afforded by the boat and make our way back from whence we came, across the lake. Mrs. Captain took the wheel for the return trip. The open water was free from traffic. The sun was settling lower into the summer sky making shadows stretch in length. The air was warm but the movement had the kids shifting about looking for shirts and towels to cover their exposed skin. Jackie sat cuddled in my arms, sitting on my lap. Across from me, my wife sat holding Theodore as he drifted off to sleep in her arms for the ride back to the marina. Our return trip ran mostly from north to south, leaving the setting sun on our starboard side. The orange-ish glow created by the setting sun lit up my wifes’ face and her blonde hair pulled back to a ponytail looked so beautiful, like the glow one might picture in a dream. She and I made eye contact in the silence that was the sound of the boat rushing over the open water, and whispered “I love you’s” to each other as we took in the beauty of those moments with the kids, on the water. The kids were happy, the twins were on their parents’ laps, and Mrs. captain performed admirably while our captain relaxed too.
As our rapid movement across the lake produced an ever changing sequence of shadow and light dancing across my wife’s beautiful smile, I smiled, a fortunate man. Similar to how it might look when trying to watch a film from a projector on a backdrop that is anything but a white screen, these flashes of light and shadow danced like memories playing on the big screen as I recalled the day’s’ events so I wouldn’t forget them.
Soon we hit Smalls Cove and returned to the docks. We proceeded to sort belongings and unload the things that needed to be taken elsewhere. Before we left our friends to head for home, we ate. We fired up the grill outside the cabana, and the captain grilled mouthwatering marinated chicken, buffalo chicken sausage, bacon and cheddar burgers, and grilled burger buns.
The food, again, was amazing as was the conversation with our friends. It’s always nice to share moments with folks who noticeably avoid agenda, participate in each moment, and who are just as thrilled to be in the same space as we were. What a great time! What a great day! For all of the times that this gathering didn’t happen; What were we thinking?!?!
As I walked to retrieve our vehicle which was parked a few minutes away, I smiled as I thought of the day. I didn’t want the day to end, but I was at peace still because it would be hard to have found a way to spend the day any better than we did. We are so very thankful and equally fortunate.
We packed our van, after making sure we hadn’t missed anything else we brought. We said our goodbyes for now and gave each other hugs. Light from beyond the sunset was clinging to the scene in its’ attempt to keep darkness at bay. As we drove away on the beginning of our return home, the twins piped in with their thoughts on the day. They shared how much they loved the boat and everything having to do with the water. They each said, on their own, another thing about the day that they liked so much, was the captain. In this sense, the captain included both, Mrs. captain and the captain. Even this morning, the twins continued talking about the day on the lake, and the captain.
I know that time will not be any easier to find as we go forward, but I also know that another day on the lake with our friends will, Lord willing, be in our near future. Again, thank you. We are truly blessed.