The Lakefront

The lakefront
Jen sitting on the seawall
…is a wondrous place.  Jen and I used to go to the lakefront with Dad when we were little.  Always on a Sunday.  Sometimes Kim would come and we’d take our paper kite and fly it while we ate lunch.  Kim was a close friend of Dad’s.  They grew up together and he was at our house a lot before he got sick. He was diagnosed with cancer later on.  I think Kim’s funeral was the 2nd funeral I’d ever been to (after Rie).  We never cooked out down by the lakefront. I don’t even think they had BBQ pits down there back then.  We just picked up Kentucky Fried Chicken.  Dad brought the fishing poles sometimes and we would fish on the seawall.  Every now and then he’d bring the crab nets and we’d try and get some blue crabs (that didn’t happen too often that I remember–and if it did, usually the crabs were too small to take home).

Sitting on the seawall with Dad, Kim, and Jen was magical.  The water spread out before us.  It seemed to go on forever.  There were hundreds of sailboats on the water every Sunday, when the weather was good.  The lapping sound of the water against the cement seawall was hypnotic.  Being by the water has always been a love of mine, whether it’s the lake, the river, or the gulf.  Dad always told us to stay off the seawall steps, but I never knew why.  I knew that they looked dark and dirty and kind of scary, but I couldn’t imagine why we couldn’t walk down to the steps and just wade in the water for a bit.  The fish swimming close by looked so friendly.  One time, when Dad and Kim were talking and not paying attention to us, I got up and creeped down to the waterline to see what was down there.  I had my shoes off just in case I got a little wet.  I moved carefully, like a cat, watching the water move with the wind, up and down very gradually.  I put my foot on the first step that was under the water.  I had no time to think.  As I brought my weight down on my foot, it slid straight out from under me.  I landed on my rear end and jettisoned out into the lake, surely to be washed away among the blue crabs that we could never catch and would never be heard from again.  My breath caught in my throat and real fear enveloped my brain as I realized that this would not end well.  I thought that was it for me.  I was lost.  No hope of getting back up to the top of the seawall where it was so lovely, and warm, and where I’d put my ice-cold coke right next to Jen along with a pile of rocks that I was going to try to skip on the water later…  Suddenly, an arm hugged around my waist and I was being pulled back toward the steps.  There I was, out of the water, wet as a fish, with eyes so big and not a word to utter.

“Diane, I told y’all to stay off those steps!”

I saw the fear in his eyes too.  The perspiration had begun to trickle down the side of his face.  His face was red, like it was when he would cut the grass and would have to drink all that water with his salt tablets because he perspired so much.  Maybe he was afraid that I was going to be dinner for the blue crabs too, but he saved me.  I can’t remember what Jen said about it.  She’d probably pulled the same stunt before or after I did and has her own story to tell.  I remember Kim had a half-smile on his face and winked at me when Dad had turned away to get a towel from the stuff we’d brought.  That made me feel safer and I smiled back.  Dad told me later about the algae that was on the steps and that that was what was so slippery.  My first thought after he told me that was “well if you’d told me that I wouldn’t have tried to go down the steps, Dad.”

But, of course, in the back of my brain, I knew I would have anyway.

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