We spent last week at a cottage in Waupaca. It was a family affair – us, my parents and my grandparents. The cottage was on a pond, the water was weedy but it was sandy underneath the muck. And the 3 inch fish were eager to eat our worms. Or hot dogs. Or bread. And there was even a turtle to lure to the dock. There was a canoe and a pedal pontoon boat. Rob paddled or pedaled us around the pond, through the channel and into the bigger lake to our north. Other than the near-death experience, the trip was a rousing success.
I thought that the worst was going to be the crib at the cottage. It was not solid or stable. We had been debating trying to tighten it up when I put the drop side down and then up. And some of the spindles gave way on top. I felt like I dodged a bullet – Bella would not and did not sleep in the crib. Phew.
Last Sunday, I tried fishing with my pole and promptly got snared in the weeds. After playing on the pedal pontoon for a day, we decide to try fishing off of it. Miranda and I will fish off the back and Rob and Henry will sit up front and pedal us around. The front has seats the back has a platform. We had put a person on the back and it seems to balance out fine. We didn’t notice the small metal on metal warning not to put people on the back.
We have done some mental math to say that Miranda plus Sarah is heavier than Rob plus Henry. But this picture shows the boat is listing backwards before I even get on.
I get on. Miranda and I put our feet out. I retrieve my fishing line from the snare. I notice that we had a ton of weeds trailing behind us. But we keep going. We get past the weeds by the shore, toward the deep middle of the pond. About 10-15 feet deep we figure.
I can remember getting the fishing line undone. I remember telling Miranda we’ll be more comfortable with our legs uncrossed. I remember the lurch of the boat as Miranda and I leaned forward. And trying to right ourselves. And realizing that we were going under. Primitive mother-bear instincts kick in. I remember being under water and having a scratchy cloth in my hand, realizing it is Miranda’s life jacket. I pull. I swim up. I am in a life jacket. I pull up and up. And then Miranda and I break surface. Miranda climbs on top of me. I realize that my life jacket is not as snug as a life jacket should be. I have enough adrenaline that I consider swimming the 25 (40?) feet back to shore with Miranda on my back. Can I just say that Miranda is a far better swimmer than I am. She’s in lessons. She’s awesome. She is completely freaked out.
We’re above water. The boat is upside down. I see Rob, who had slid out on the other side of the boat. My grandparents and dad were watching us pedal out, first in delight and then in horror. My grandfather figures the boat went from listing backward to completely flipped over in 3 seconds. I see Rob. And then I scream, “Where’s Henry? Henry!” I have this crazy idea he is on the other side of the boat, but really Rob was on the other side of the boat. Henry is upside down in the water.
Henry and Miranda had their life vests on. We figure Henry was not upside down for long. His life jacket pushes him up against the boat, but no air pocket, darn it all. Rob starts reaching under the boat. He find him and untangles him from between the front seat and front shelf. He pulls him out. Henry comes out of the water with a still face, closed eyes. Rob’s heart stops until Henry opens his eyes. He says a word. “What?” I think, but really all I remember is it that it was a word, not a cry. And that that meant he was still thinking. As soon as he was out and crying, my heart started beating again. And then I needed Miranda not to be on top of me.
Henry was under water for about 30 seconds. He held his breath the whole time, so that makes us think it couldn’t have been the 3-5 minutes it felt like. I screamed loud enough to alert my mom and a neighbor who came down to the water, hopped on his tiny pontoon and tried to rescue us. My mom thought Henry must have playfully jumped off the boat and was horrified to walk down to the water and see the boat upside down and the people in the water.
We hoisted the kids onto the upside down boat. I started pulling seaweed off. There was a lot of it. We tightened my life jackets and wondered whether it was worth Rob diving under the boat to look for his. The neighbor offered to push us to shore. And I was so high on adrenaline, I said no, we’re fine. The children were alive. That’s all that mattered.
The neighbor watched us swim the boat most of the way. And then he helped us push it the final 10 feet. We handed the kids up to my mom on the dock for showers and hugs and probably chocolate. And then my grandfather and father helped us flip the boat over with a rope. And we took showers. And put on dry clothes. And I was a bit manic and blase and OK about it. Until later when my hand that I pulled with started to ache – I think I sprained the muscle between my thumb and fingers. An ace bandage helped. My middle finger on my other hand still feels sprained. I had a set of bruises. Rob was OK until bedtime. At bedtime we both felt crazy with the what-ifs.
Miranda wrote a book about the incident. Henry asks about when he was stuck under water – he was pretty shook up. Rob started having sinus pain that laid him out. His whole body ached.I was so glad I had no foolish ideas about taking the baby along on the pedal boat. Both of my shoes popped up (who knew Merrills floated?) as did Rob’s Keens. My fishing pole was lost to the depths, but we retrieved the kids’ poles, the tackle box, Rob’s life vest.
We very much had that sense that you have to get back on the horse again, although I don’t think we did more with the pdeal boat than sit at the dock with it. When Rob and I went out later that week, I fished with his pole. And caught the line for my pole. So even that we recovered.
The rest of the week was nice. The next worst thing that happened was having to go to Culvers to check my email on because I went after the library and its free wi-fi closed. I got lost no less than 67 times. I found my way all but one of them. One damn time I had made a complete circle and had to start over.
Rob and the big kids ran their appropriate triathlons on Friday and Saturday. And that was good. Maybe a story for another night.
A near miss in every way. Rob and I discussed whether we were lucky and dumb or unlucky and smart…we rescued the children, but it would seem we put them in peril. I still think lucky.