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Friday, 22 July 2011

Who Are You?

By Jackie Harrison

I never pretended to be a good swimmer. Growing up in a small town in Georgia, I saw mainly creeks, fish ponds and a muddy river. Backyard swimming pools were unheard of.

There was one lake where people paid to swim. A heavy rope was stretched across its width separating the shallow water and the poor or non-swimmers from the deep water. The good swimmers swam and dove from the diving board to a stationary float in the middle of the lake.

I spent hours in this lake holding onto the rope in the shallow area kicking my legs or practicing floating and dog paddling parallel to the rope. Finally I mustered enough courage to swim to the float - a proud self-taught swimmer!

My husband was a native Floridian from an area filled with lakes. He bragged about swimming across the huge lake behind his house, never minding the alligators and the water skiers.

He was also a lifeguard. I wanted our children to be good swimmers like him. They were. Josie worked as a lifeguard during the summers and Trace, nine years younger, learned to swim as a baby. I was the only novice swimmer in this family, never wanting my head under water without a mask.

One summer, the family made plans to go snorkeling at Pennekamp in the Florida keys. Though not a good swimmer, I was at least a good sport to go along with these plans. I practiced with my mask and snorkel in our pool without ever mastering the art of clearing my snorkel.

I learned that John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo was a marine sanctuary with crystal clear blue water and a living shallow-water reef. They offered boat snorkeling trips off shore over the reefs if the waves were not too high. The boat trip was one-and-a-half hours of actual water time.

On the day we arrived, it was cloudy and windy with white caps on the waves. The Pennekamp officials debated whether or not to send out the boats because the waves were a little too high. I secretly hoped they would cancel the trip. Butafter seeing the sad faces and hearing the disappointed moans of everyone, the officials finally said it was a "Go.”

Our family, carrying the masks, snorkels and flippers, boarded our boat with a few others. When we dropped anchor above the reefs, the captain announced that it was time to put on our gear and jump into the water.

The three in my family grabbed all the good masks, snorkels and flippers and hopped right in. I didn't mind. I thought this gave me a good excuse to stay on board with the captain.

The captain discovered me and wanted to know why I hadn't joined the others. I was happy to tell him they had taken the good masks and the remaining one leaked. He left and I thought that was the end of it.

It wasn't long before he returned offering me his own mask. He said he didn't want me to miss out on the fun. What could I do?

I put on all the gear and jumped into the water where I found myself completely isolated in a big ocean. All the people from my boat were out of sight. I couldn't go back to the boat. The captain would think I was chicken.

Carefully keeping my snorkel above the water level, I became fascinated looking below at the beautiful corals, varieties of multicolored fish and even barracudas. I forgot all about time and my poor swimming.

Suddenly I looked up and saw a boat. I almost panicked when I saw how far away it was. I swam as fast as I could, struggling to keep my snorkel clear. Out of breath, I reached the back of the boat and started to hoist myself up.

My eyes made contact with a complete stranger. The captain, whom I had never seen before, approached me and asked, "Who are you? A mermaid?"

It was then that I realized I was on the wrong boat. I had swum a great distance to a foreign boat while mine was very near to where I had been snorkeling.

I sheepishly explained what happened and asked if I could stay on his boat and not have to swim back to mine. He laughed and called the captain of my boat saying, "I have a lady here who says she doesn't care if she never sees her husband again."

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


What a cute story! Thanks for sharing!

Jackie - Great story!

At least Cap'n #2 had a good sense of humor! - Sandy

I admire you. I have a fear of face masks although being a good swimmer so I always beg off. You at least did it and seemingly enjoyed it, especially the remark cute by the 2nd captain.

Such a surprise ending! Adorable, just adorable. I can see myself doing something similar.

If I were the boat captain, I would have snatched this lovely mermaid and kept her for the day. I wonder what the other boat captain would have told the husband. Anyway, Jackie enthralls us as usual with another story of fun, adventure and intrigue. Just cannot wait for the next one... she has a treasure trove of so many funny and memorable stories to share with us.

A great and well-told story. Thanks!

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