Our merry little group imposed upon residents of homes across the lake during a fiery 4th of July for some refreshments. We ladies stood ankle-deep in the cooling water. Each of us holding a small plastic cup which in turn held small portions of a shimmering Chardonnay. The men from our group congregated on the dock to ogle the lavish pontoon secured to it. The owner of the lavish pontoon was on board demonstrating some of its sweeter features. Our children frolicked along the water’s edge running in and out amongst the waves. My children were still wearing the life jackets from the boat ride so they only required cursory glances to make sure they weren’t doing something silly like feeding piranhas.
The overpowering heat of the holiday had brought every speed boat, fishing boat, and two-man kayak out onto the water creating a steady succession of waves crashing into the two foot breaker wall behind me. This created fun for the kids but I was finding it difficult to hold my position in the shallow water as each wave erroded the sand from under my feet. The waves were not tall but frequent enough to be a nuisance.
Perhaps our friend, Ingrid, sister to the lavish pontoon owner, had anticipated this and that is why she stationed herself cock-eyed in a green, plastic chair in the grass a few feet beyond the beaker wall. Or, perhaps her immense irritation and anger with her husband had made her a little less sociable than usual. I had suffered in the sun on our beat-up-yet-trusty pontoon ride across the lake making me more tolerant of the waves and more reluctant to join Ingrid in the grass.
I glanced around to watch the children playing in the water. I noticed Ingrid’s youngest son, Andy, 3 years old, was also out playing in the waves with the older kids with ages ranging up to 9 years. Quickly, I reassured myself that my kids still had on their life jackets because the quickness of the darkening water at the edge indicated to me that there was a drop off.
I try not to be a judgmental person especially when it comes to mothering. I am sure I suffer many silent judgements from those who don’t understand the peculiarities of my oldest son who looks like all the other children but isn’t quite the same. I didn’t comment or give a Southern compliment when I noted that Andy was out in nearly neck deep water without a life jacket. The boy being only 3 would not be able to walk back up to the shoreline if he got in too deep. Instead of imposing my opinion, I watched Andy myself very closely, just in case. I was relieved to hear Ingrid command Andy to return to shallower waters.
Andy’s brother Christian was up on the lavish pontoon throwing items all around as though he were looking for something. Ingrid turned her attention toward Andy’s brother and yelled something that I didn’t listen to because I wanted to keep my eagle eye on Andy. Then the water level was up above Andy’s mouth.
I threw down my cup as my mind went blank. I had no thoughts but was zeroed in on Andy’s little white head that looked like a fishing bobber floating on the water. My eyes locked with Andy’s drawing me to him like a magnet.
He didn’t make a sound. He wasn’t thrashing around in the water. It was like he was just waiting for someone. If I had not been watching for how deep he was in the water, I probably would not have noticed him because he was so still.
I don’t recall if I walked or ran. I didn’t take time to consider that I was fully dressed (no bathing suit). I didn’t wait to see if any of the others, all previously lifeguards in their 20’s, were headed in to get him. I heard Ingrid say or do something but I didn’t register what it was.
I do recall a few things. I recall being locked into getting to the child. I recall wondering how many seconds he could be under the water like that before he drowned. I recall that at one point the water was deep enough that I began swimming and worried that I would cause a wave to hit him in the face. I recall thinking, no, feeling, “Get the child.”
I reached under the water and grabbed his legs just under his rear end and hugged him to me as I stood up. Immediately, I heard sounds of coughing which I took as a positive sign that I had reached him in time. Just as we swung around Ingrid was beside me saying, “Thank you, Stephanie.”
I walked back to the group of ladies snatching my floating cup from the water along the way. With water dripping from me everywhere I thrust my cup out to one of the guys and said, “I think I’ll have another one.”
I looked over at Ingrid sitting on the breaker walk with Andy clutched closely to her chest. She looked miserable but I didn’t blame her. We’ve all sat on the beach together. Sometimes we’re angry with our spouses. Sometimes we didn’t get enough sleep the night before. Sometimes we get distracted by other children. Sometimes we have friends who impose their company on us when we just aren’t in the mood. One great thing about us is that we keep an eye out for each others children.