Seasons - Part I
The dying leaf swirls on the breeze
I had bruises in places that I did not know existed. Among the circles of black and blue on my legs were scratches of various lengths, their color rivaling that of the sunburn on my upper body. I do not know which was worse the damage the sun had done or the beating my lower body had received. I was too exhausted both physically and mentally to care.
It was a picture perfect summer day, seventy-eight degrees, a slight breeze, and not a cloud in the sky. The kind of day you hope for when starting out on an adventure. My family and I were camping at our favorite campground in rural Indiana. As the smell of camp smoke and bacon permeated the air, we gathered at our dilapidated picnic table to make our plans for the day. My husband, Dennis, had been trying to get me to agree to take the kids tubing for years and the day was so nice that I relented. Dennis is of average height with a beer belly even though he hates beer. What hair he has left is thin and dark brown and he has brown eyes and wears glasses.
We chose the company we would hire to transport us to the drop site and loaded up the car with our picnic lunch and three kids, Lauren age 11, Lindsey age 9, and Logan age 8. Oh yes, and not to be forgotten the family dog, Daisy who is a 60 lb. black lab basset hound mix who thinks she’s a lap dog. She is all black except for a white belly and white paws. Little did we know that she was afraid of water.
We arrived at the transport site and rented two inner-tubes and a canoe. We boarded an old school bus that had seen better days. I was nervous but trying not to show it. My oldest, Lauren, has an anxious personality and I was putting up a brave front for her. Lauren has long blondish brown hair, blue eyes, and wears glasses. She tends to think of the worst possible outcome for any situation. If we take a ride in the car and it makes an unexpected noise, she immediate thinks we are all going to die. The idea of being on the river for an hour with three kids and a dog was kind of terrifying to me, but I tried hard not allow her to see that. I mean you cannot change your mind once you start. Once you begin, you are pretty much committed.
The driver took us to the location where we would start our trip downstream on the Tippecanoe River. He told us it would take about an hour to reach the exit point. We were to look for a flag with the company name on it and that was where we would end our journey. It was about 10 am as we eagerly situated everyone for our departure. After applying sunscreen, my husband and I each took an inner-tube and loaded all three kids and the dog into the canoe with our lunch, camera, and cell phone in plastic bags. Some other folks were just putting their kayak in the water and we all agreed that it was a beautiful day for a float down the river. The kayakers sped away and we walked our entourage out into the middle of the river. The water level seemed to be a little low here. We figured that was what made this spot ideal for entry. The canoe floated along nicely, but we had to squat down in the water to get the inner-tubes to float. We assumed it would get deeper downstream.
We floated this way, alongside the canoe, for a few minutes until we came to a bend in the river. As we rounded the bend, we were awed by the beauty of nature. Both sides of this majestic river were full of trees for as far as we could see. We listened to the sounds of birds and bugs and tried to guess what they were. We splashed and laughed and enjoyed this low-tech adventure we had begun. That lasted about 5 minutes. We soon realized that the low water depth made it impossible to miss all the tree branches on the bottom of the river. We tried to turn back but found that to be an impossible task as the current kept pushing us forward. Our only choice was to grin and bear it, so we continued downstream.
About half an hour into the float, we banked on a sandy spot on the side of the river for lunch. The kids collected some small shells along the beach area and Daisy swatted at some tiny fish in the shallow water near the shore. After letting the kids stretch their legs for about 15 minutes, we loaded up and started back down the river.
Shortly thereafter, our daughter Lindsey wanted to float in the inner-tube for a while so I tried to get in the canoe. Lindsey is our adventurous child. She has Apraxia, which is a speech problem where her brain does not tell her mouth how to form words correctly so she has to memorize how to say each word. We are so proud of Lindsey because she never gets upset when we do not understand her. She just improvises and tries to help us. With all of the obstacles that Apraxia has given her, I am amazed that she is so self-confident.
My getting into the canoe was a disaster that should not have been attempted. I am a large woman who apparently weighs more than 2 kids and a dog. The canoe promptly tipped over dumping the contents into the shallow water. The bag containing our cell phone and camera popped open drowning them both in river water; however, we managed to salvage the remaining food supplies. My husband decided to walk the canoe downstream while Lindsey used his inner tube. We told Lindsey to hold on to the canoe so that she would not float away. Lindsey was drinking from a bottle of water and dropped the cap into the river. Instinctively she let go of the canoe to grab the cap and the current swiftly took her away. Logan started screaming for her and crying that we were going to lose her. He and Lindsey are very close, almost like twins. They are 13 months apart in age. Logan has blondish brown hair and brown eyes and Lindsey has dark brown hair and brown eyes. Lindsey’s face is rounder than Logan’s, almost pixie like, and her hair is cut to land just under her chin. They are exactly the same height and build.
I immediately took off after Lindsey and took a tree limb, which was hiding below the surface, to the gut, knocking the wind out of me. Lauren started to become upset and Dennis tried to calm both her and Logan. I finally reached Lindsey and after helping to calm everyone we continued down river, instructing the children to start watching for the exit flag.
After 30 minutes, at least we thought it was about 30 minutes as we no longer had a working cell phone with which to tell the time, the flag still had not materialized. I was surprised that the kids were not whining about whether or not we were there yet. All we could do was keep walking in our squatted positions. At one point I attempted to float on top of the inner-tube but after almost being given an enema by a tree branch I quickly went back to squatting.
We started trying to tell time by the sun. Around what we assumed to be noon we came across a man fly fishing with his dog. His black lab swam and played in the water almost joyfully unlike Daisy who would not even look over the edge of the canoe in fear of getting wet. He asked us what company had dropped us off and then told us that we were about halfway to the exit point. My heart sank into the pit of my stomach. If we were right about the time, we had been on the river for two hours! I was already scratched up and bruised, my back hurt from having to walk in an awkward position, and I did not think I could take much more.
My anger at the man who had dropped us off kept me walking. I had a few choice words to express to him. How could he have led us into this horror? Did he not know about the water level and the dangers of traversing the river in this state? He should have warned us.
We came to a place in the river where you could see the sandy bottom. It was too shallow to float, so Dennis had to drag the canoe along. I sat down in the middle of the Tippecanoe and cried. The water did not even rise up above my legs. I bawled for a good 5 minutes - loudly. The kids just watched from their canoe prison. Logan said, “Mommy, are you okay?” I said that I would be fine in just a minute. I had to get it together. My kids needed me to be strong and rescue them from this ordeal. I could not just sit here in the river for the rest of my life. After my sobs subsided, we resumed looking for the elusive white flag.
We had given up trying to tell time and just walked. I think the kids napped at some point. Our only goal was to make it to the end without any major trauma, at least without any major physical trauma because I think the emotional trauma will be something I will never forget. We rounded another bend that at first looked like many that we had seen before, but this one was different. There were houses along the banks and people were in the river. It was deeper here and children were laughing and playing on a tire swing. They were swinging out over the river and jumping into the deep water. “How dare they!” entered my mind. I could not comprehend how someone could enjoy this horrible river.
We kept moving and rounded another bend. Lindsey spotted the white flag on the river bank to the left of us. We emerged from the river and dragged the canoe up the steep bank. I could not wait to confront the man from the rental company. Our car was the only vehicle in the parking lot. There was a large rock at the edge of the lot with a smaller stone on top weighing down a note. The note read “Had to leave at 3:30, please leave canoe and inner-tubes by river”. I was in shock that the man had the nerve to not be there when we arrived.
Exhausted, we stumbled to our car which was a welcome sight after our ordeal. Once we were all inside, we checked the time. It was 5:30 pm; we had been on the river for 7 ½ hours! I started laughing and crying at the same time. Dennis thought that I had either lost my mind or was suffering from sunstroke. Lauren asked me what was so funny. I said “We beat it! We beat the river! We survived!” I did not want them to remember all the horror that I had experienced that day. I tried to use this as a learning experience to show them that there was nothing that we could not accomplish if we tried. I think Lauren became a little less anxious about things after that and as for Lindsey and Logan, while they do not remember much of that trip, I remember the way that they got along and took care of each other during the emotional ordeal. I found out that I could do previously unthinkable things in order to protect my children. Even though there are times that I would like to wring their necks, I would never have abandoned them in order to save myself, no matter what the cost.
It was one of those amazing dreams...the kind you have once in a blue moon. Somewhere between fully asleep and awake, when you're conscious of the fact that it's a dream but it's too good to wake up all the way. I had one of those dreams last night...or rather early this morning. It had been an uneventful evening; I watched a cheesy eighty's movie "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" then played Zoo tycoon for 6 hours straight, finally passing out about 6 a.m. That's when the dream started. In the early morning twilight hours.
It wasn't an "ooh, I remember when Dillon from 90210 was cute" kinda dream, or a "you know Harrison Ford is kinda hot for an old guy" kinda dream, it was a creative kind of dream. I wrote my first children's fictional story. I know as awesome as that sounds, you probably are unable to grasp the full scope of my dream. I not only wrote a children's book, but it was fully illustrated and it was interactive! It had teacher learning objectives in the front and state and national standards listed in the back! It was awesome and I would love to tell you the story, but I cannot remember the first word of it!
You see in my dream, I was telling the story to people over and over again. I had the pages blown up onto huge poster boards and they were displayed around a small room. I was taking people through the room one at a time, memorizing the story as I retold it so that my conscience mind might remember it. When suddenly, in the distance, I heard a dull bickering that increasingly grew louder and louder. My mind was being dragged from the fabulous story I was telling to the intrusive fight that was brewing just inches from my slumbering soul. Suddenly and quite rudely, I was shoved awake by my teenage daughter who was screaming that her brother had done something so horrible that it had to be dealt with right now, even though her father was in the background yelling, "I told you not to wake her up!"
Just as quickly as my eyes flew open, the book vanished. Not a word or a picture remains,and try as I might to conjure up the dream - I can only see the pen name, Selena Snodgrass.