When I was young, I went to summer camp every single summer. I loved it. I mean, I really loved it! I would sometimes call home after a two-week session and beg my parents to let me stay another two-week session.
I loved camp and all that camp encompassed: songs around the campfire, bunk beds, cabins, horseback riding, archery, riflery, arts and crafts, lifelong friendships…the list goes on and on.
Throughout the two-week camp session there would be numerous competitions, including canoeing, my favorite. I was often in the stern position; I would steer and yell the paddle cadence (“Stroke! Stroke!”) as our team would paddle their little hearts out.
From those early days on I’ve loved canoeing and felt very comfortable “handling” one.
Fast forward a number of years. I am married to a man who likes to fish. And, since he likes to fish, he thinks he needs a kayak. (Picture below shows that he achieved that goal, eventually, but he had to wait a number of years before getting one.)
Kayaks are very different from canoes.
At the time of my marriage, and a few years into it, I had never been in a kayak before. I’m thinking I wouldn’t like it.
Fast forward, again, 8 years into my marriage. My oldest hooligan is 4 years old and I am 5 months pregnant with my wee one. One weekend, ThrillCam decides to take our son out fishing in a 2-man kayak that he has rented for a few days. He wants to take it out for a test drive. They have a ball.
It’s time to return the kayak, and my husband calls me from the store:
“Yes,” I say.
“Hey. I was thinking. Wouldn’t it be a lot of fun if I were to rent second kayak, so you could join us out on the water?”
“I thought we could drive down to the Guadalupe to float the river.”
“Um. But, we have church in the morning, remember?”
“I know. We can go afterward.”
“Um. I’m pregnant. Remember?”
“Honey. You’ll be fine.”
“You love to canoe–it’s just like canoeing! I promise.”
“Um…well…okay…if you think so….”
“Great!! I’ll bring home both kayaks! We’re gonna have so much fun!” *Click*
Fast forward to that Sunday. After church, we load up the car and head down to the river…which, I might add, was running high, due to some VERY recent flooding in the area. As we drive closer to the river, I begin noticing the line of debris on the fences and trees left over from the flooding…. I tell myself to breathe.
We drive to an outfitter that follows us to a drop-off spot for our car and then takes us and our gear back up river to get in. (The Man’s trailer looks much like the one below–they can carry canoes, kayaks, or even inner tubes.)
The Man who drives us helps us unload our kayaks and proceeds to hold the kayak, in the water, for me to get in. (Remember, I am 5 months preggers…I am already showing–this baby is already freakishly large.) I am instructed by both The Man and ThrillCam to allow my kayak to float about 5 feet forward to the low-water crossing bridge where I could, literally, grab hold, from underneath, if that makes sense. I am told to hold onto the bridge and wait for my husband and son while The Man holds the 2-man kayak for them to get in.
While they are boarding their kayak, I sense the water running pretty quickly and I am having a hard time holding on to the bridge. I am being moved forward by the strong current. My hands are basically sliding along the bottom of the concrete bridge with nothing to grab hold of, nothing to anchor to…. All of the sudden, I run out of bridge to hang on to! I’m now out in open water and have no clue how to stop, much less paddle, the stupid boat.
Immediately, I am pushed, by the strong force of the water, smack dab into a tree! This tree is sticking out of the middle of the river and I find myself glued to the thing.
I begin to panic. The water is rushing, like mad, all around me.
I’d like to take this moment to say, I LOVE the water. I’ve never been afraid of it. I love to swim, etc. But, at this moment, I am seeing my life, and the life of our yet-to-be-born baby, hanging in the throes of death, and I am very afraid.
Instantly, I learn a very valuable lesson about kayaks: if an individual runs the kayak into an object in the water, be it a bolder or a huge, oddly placed tree, one must never, never instinctively lean away from said object; one must lean into said object. Otherwise, if said individual leans away from said object, the rushing flood waters will come crashing into one’s watercraft and rip it violently from one’s pregnant body and leave said pregnant person hanging onto said tree while said watercraft is being washed away with scary, fast-moving, deadly flood waters….
This is when I begin screaming for help from my husband. (I’m not usually a screamer, but in this case, I am.) ThrillCam begins rapidly paddling toward me. He’s coming to rescue his wife and soon-to-be-born baby (because if he doesn’t get me soon, I’m having that baby right then and there!!!). I am preparing to let go of the tree and grab his kayak for safety, when he says, “Hang on babe! We’ll go get your kayak for you!!”
Then, he and my 4-year-old paddle away.
Gone. They left me.
The swirling, foaming, rushing water has immediately swept up my feet as the kayak makes its way down river. I hang on tightly to a branch on the tree. My body is, literally, parallel to the bottom of the river. (I look like one of those cartoons where the gusting wind has picked up the feet of a cartoon character as they hang on to a light pole…. Only, I’m not hanging on to a light pole, I’m hanging onto a TREE in the middle of a RIVER!!!)
Let me reiterate: I am panicking. I know that if I let go, I will go under. Period.
Then, just as my cold, wet fingers are beginning to slip from their grip around my tree of life, from nowhere, I hear above the din, a strong, booming voice.
“YOU CAN STAND UP.”
It’s God, I’m sure of it.
“YOU CAN STAND UP.”
It must be that reassuring voice of God, who is telling me that even when the rushing waters of life are threatening to take your very life, I Am with you and you can stand up. It’s God’s voice telling me to be strong, because, surely, it will be over soon.
I’m about to let go and let God.
“HEY! LADY!! YOU CAN STAND UP!!!”
I look toward the sound, toward the shore.
“THE WATER IS THIS DEEP.” I see a dark figure holding his hand at waist level.
It’s The Man; the one who drove us down to the river and suggested we put in at this dangerous and deadly spot.
So…apprently, I can stand up. Could have the whole time.
(Long pause for effect, as this realization sinks in.)
I stand up and wade over to the edge of the very fast-moving, but very shallow, river. The Man puts out his hand and pulls my sopping, wet, pregnant body out of the water, which is a feat unto itself…He pulls me out of the water that had so nearly threatened to end my life. And my unborn baby’s.
I walk a short distance down river and meet up with my husband and 4-year-old. Sure enough, they are holding on to my lost kayak. I clumsily climb back into that stupid thing and finish the trip.
About every 30 minutes throughout the next 3 hours, my sweet, little cherub of a child would call out, “Mommy!! You’re doing so good! You haven’t fallen out of your kayak again! Good job!”
Needless to say, my wonderful husband never says another word the rest of the trip.
He knows better.
Anyone up for a canoe trip?
P.S. My husband hates this story. He thinks it makes him look bad. He’s not bad. Please don’t think less of him, because I don’t.