I knew the minute my eyes finally picked him out on the rocks near the waterline, that he was not a Lake Boy. His hair was too fancy.
Real Lake Boys do not care what their hair looks like. They are in and out of the water, sporting and goofing around. Even Lake Girls are different at the lake than they are at the ocean beach. Something about being at a lake calls for natural fuss-free grooming. I think that’s because it’s hard to be at the lake and not go in the water. It lures you into its freshness. And if you’re in the water, some part of your hair and face are gonna get wet, even if you weren’t planning on it. You can, however, be at the ocean beach and never set a toe in the water. Or just step in up to your knees. You can have fancy hair, a face with make up and a body of jewelry that never gets wet. I’ve done it. Lots. The ocean beach can be a great place for singles on the prowl. But that means, you can’t get your hair wet. The lake doesn’t lend itself to singles on the prowl in the same way so you can get your hair wet and leave the make up behind. It’s not necessary.
This guy did not fit in with the lake scene and I was pretty sure that he was not supposed to be there. An awkward bird knows when they are in the company of another awkward bird.
I had taken my wee ones to the lake to teach them entry level kayaking skills.
They had asked the night before when we went up for dinner and a swim, but my default response to anything they ask that sounds like it is going to be a lot of work for me is “no”. That’s because it is always a lot of work for me. So, I had said “no”. We were only there for a short time and trying to work with three newbies one-on-one was going to require major mojo on my part.
But, their request sat in my brain and the prayer I ask often is to be a better mom (which I have learned needs to be more specific but God knows what I mean when I am too tired to be specific) so the next morning, I knew that part of our day would be to try out kayaking.
Armed with the mojo to be a more effective parent, we made our way back to the lake. Nothing in my world comes without some kind of story and this was no different. As I dragged a kayak down the small hill where it was stored to the water where we would begin our lessons from momma, I was taken back to my 9 or 10-year old self at summer church camp. I loved church camp. It was social, it was outdoors and I was all on my own for a week with no parents. Sweet. But it did come with negatives. Being a church camp, we were required to participate in chores and some of them were not fun. Like cleaning the camp bathrooms. Blech. There were also activities that were not fun. Like having your camp’s assigned swim time on the lake be the first one in the morning. It didn’t matter that it was summer, it was cold. The water was cold and the air was cold and the sun was not awake long enough to change any of that. Plus, we were in the woods. Where the sun don’t shine. As I aged, I discovered a benefit to undergoing puberty was that you could use “that time of the month” as a free pass to not have to swim during the cold morning assigned swim times. Yes, there was a time when the world thought you could not go swimming if you were experiencing your menstrual cycle and I am old enough to have lived through it and used it to my advantage on these occasions. It didn’t work at home because my mother was a nurse and knew that it was hogwash. But these camp counselors, especially the males, were not about to debate it.
Canoeing was another “not fun” moment at church camp. I liked canoeing but not the way church camp did it. Canoeing with my dad was relaxing. I could be a lazy kid and frolic. Not at church camp. We had to work. We had to carry our own canoes. Canoes are heavy when you are a peanut. I was a peanut. And when you are a peanut and have to lift it off the highest level of the canoe rack to get it down with your partner, who would also be a peanut in some capacity because we were only nine and ten, something not good is waiting to happen. On one occasion, the canoe came down crushing my big toe. It was black and blue for almost an eternity. I’m pretty sure if I looked close enough, I could still see some black and blue on my toenail forty years later. Canoeing at church camp was also more of a race on the lake than a relaxing “let’s see what we can see” joy ride. I’ve never been athletically competitive and have always preferred the joy ride. I like to see what I can see. I like the journey.
I still had to canoe with an injured toe. That didn’t get me a free pass to sit out like my “time of the month did”. I could only lift the canoe about an inch off the ground as I carried my end to the water. Just enough to be able to say that I was not dragging it, which was a big “no-no”. Once in the water, we would have to keep up and paddle our peanut arms off to canoe out to the middle of the lake, then turn around and go right back where we started and then our canoeing time was over. Even at that young age, my brain believed there is always a solution. Sometimes in life, you can’t fight it, you just have to endure the moment. It didn’t take me long to realize that if we were the slowest ones to paddle out, we would start out leading the pack on the way back when we all turned our canoes around. We may not win “the race” because our peanut arms were not equipped for that, nor was my competitive athletic spirit, but at least we’d paddle a lot less, and a lot less frantically, and there was even some time to look around and joy ride a small bit. There’s always a solution.
As I brought the kayak down the small hill, in my grown-up-adult-not-a-peanut body, but still only lifting it barely an inch off the ground, I could feel the wash of church camp canoeing dampening my skin with anxiety. My big toe throbbed in memory. My kids know my story so I only had to start telling them what I felt like and they finished it.
Score one point for overly repeated parent stories. Yassss.
My youngest was the first to get a momma kayak lesson and he was quite a natural. When you’re the third child, and probably further on down the birth order line, you don’t mess around with whether you can do things or not, you just do it. Otherwise, you’ll be left behind by your siblings who have no problem leaving you in their dust. His body just seemed to know what to do. Which is a good thing, because when he was close to the dock he told me to look at a bird, and when I could not find the bird he was talking about, he pointed to it with his paddle. There it was on the rocks near the waterline. The bird was gray and blended right in with the gray rocks. It didn’t fly away with healthy fear, it just hopped around a bit as the paddle came dangerously closer. As I went to check out the bird that I knew was not a Lake Bird because he had fancy hair, my youngest had taken his paddle back, un-wedged himself from under the dock and was off to kayak on his own. Fragmented brain is a requirement for parenting. That’s why if I’m talking to you and you think I am not listening or looking at you, I’m not. If my kids are around, I’m usually only half-listening and half-looking at what you are showing me. Of course, that doesn’t always happen, so thankfully they all have an angel on their shoulders for those moments when I am totally focused on something else and not them. Like when they are kayaking for the first time and decide to keep going even when the momma lesson is on pause because I am distracted by a bird that is truly a “fish out of water”.
His name is Charlie, although I did not know that at the time. At the time, what I I noticed was his fancy “hair” and thought, “This guy has no idea what he’s doing down here by the water. This guy is not a Lake Boy. He is not accustomed to the wild ways of the lake and outside life. He looks like the birds I have seen in pet stores, with soft cushy cared for lives, that my kids want and I won’t let them have because some birds can live 100 years and that would be the bird we ended up with. I am already two mice, two hamsters, two cats and three kids over my critter capacity on most days. No birds.”
Funny how life makes you stare face to face with your fears. More critters right now is definitely a fear of mine. Read on for scoop on a cat that has surfaced around our farmhouse that we don’t know if it has a home or not. Sigh.
His tail dragged. His feathers were not perky even though his hair was. I knelt by the bird on the rocks and tried to get him to walk onto my finger. (Memories come of being a young girl on the old-time swing sets that “pump” out of the ground when you swing too high, singing in my Cinderella voice for a bird or butterfly, or anything at that point, to come and land on my hand.) He eventually walked on to my hand but walked off just as quickly, unsure of the whole thing. He seemed confused. That made two of us. I scooped him up and he half flapped and flew onto the beach near some grass. I emptied out a bin that carried our swimming gear and put it on top of the bird, then remembered some bird training, probably from Tweety and Sylvester, that people cover bird cages to relax birds. So, I put a beach towel on top of the upturned bin.
All the while, my fragmented brain is dealing with my own issues of “Oh crap” and “Great” and “Seriously? Are we really going to end up with a bird?”. Swirl in figuring out that it probably needed to go to a vet because it seemed “off” and then a pet store for supplies and we just got to the lake for momma’s kayaking lessons and everything done with three kids takes an eternity so how was I fitting all this in, and “Oh crap, I can’t believe we’re gonna have a bird.”
Then sprinkle in my son offering his soul to me if we could just keep the bird because he really would take care of this pet himself. And my daughter relaying my message that birds can live one hundred years so we are not keeping the bird. That is the message I have told her repeatedly because she wants a bird, so there was no way she was going to let her brother get a bird. My immediate solution was Facebook. I could take a picture of the bird and put it on FB with a plea for its owner. Surely, this was someone’s pet because it did not belong at the lake. In the meantime, my mom had come down to the beach and my wee ones shared the adventure with her. She knew of a neighbor that resided there for the summer and that it might be their bird. I hoped and prayed. Otherwise, “Shoot, we were really gonna have a bird.”
Luckily, it was the neighbor’s bird and they came to take him home. Later, we learned that his name is Charlie. He is a baby and had been missing for a week. The stars aligned and Charlie had an angel on his shoulders because he ended up in our story and we were able to put enough pieces together as a team to keep him safe and help him find his way back home. He wasn’t far. Wherever his adventures had taken him that week, he was almost back to his home territory. Maybe he likes the journey, the joy ride, too. But at the point that we saw him on the water’s edge, it reminded me of a story line possibility for a kids’ movie that he was contemplating ending it all because he’d never ever see his family again, when he was pushed back from the water, trapped under a bucket, then rescued with the hands from home. The movie would go into all of the crazy adventures he had the week he was away from home and it would end with Charlie snuggled up next to a giant dog pal giving him sloppy kisses…messing up his fancy hair.
I love stories. (Just not telling them at bedtime. See “Ned The Noodle” in my posts if you haven’t. )
Odd animal encounters have been the norm lately, although Charlie was the most interesting. (I don’t need Charlie to live with me but I do love that little fancy-haired guy.) While we were at the lake recently, my youngest yelled out that there was a lobster. Sure enough there was. Sort of. A crayfish, and a rather large one for the lake, was sitting on the weed mat waiting for an older gal just like me to recreate her youth and catch it just to prove that she still could. I did and proceeded to impress my kids with the knowledge that they swim backwards so you have to come in quickly from behind. I haven’t seen them in years and wasn’t sure there were still any around, although I have not put in much effort to look for them like I did when I was a kid. Another adventure on the journey to make country kids and lake kids out of my kids yet.
Then there was a rather large garter snake that I spooked while weed whacking that slithered into our sun porch at the farmhouse. I like snakes so was not bothered by going in to get it and bring it back outside. But, it was probably the largest one I have ever picked up and I could feel its muscles squirming through my work gloves as I held on to it, again to go show and impress my kids. (I may have self esteem issues.) That was a little gross.
A cat has visited us at the farmhouse a few times and I am desperately hoping it’s just out for a lovely country stroll and not a stray. I mentioned above how I am over-crittered right now. So far, we have not seen it in a few days. I hope telling you doesn’t jinx me.
And the last odd critter at the moment is some sort of night time creature that screeches all night, calling out to another of the same species and they screech back and forth. I have never heard this odd creature noise before. It sounds like it is in the trees. I had thought perhaps a tree frog of some sort but then the other night I was listening to it on one side of my bedroom windows and then suddenly the sounds traveled rather quickly to the other side of the house. I think to be closer to its friend because they screeched together.