time after time

My sixteen year old, frustrated, pushes away from me and lets me loose on the floatation device. I am immediately uncomfortable; without a paddle of my own I just have my ineffective hands to flap in the cool water. While I am a strong swimmer I am leery of lakes; the gritty grime of algae bloom and slimy, treacherous lakeweed, jagged branches smirking below, waiting to drive into a tender footpad.

My older son knows I don’t want to fall in the water and, watchful young man he is, he feels responsible for my mild peril (for anyone’s, though). As I drift tensely further from shore he quietly makes his way to water’s edge, ready to run along the dock and rescue via paddle or pole or a swim-rescue.

Near-wordlessly, or I should say with no particular aim in small conversation, the two boys and I re-orient for a soujourn; paddleboard and floatation device, chaining up together and paddling through to a cool, shallow inlet in the cove. My sons speak their own language together and are more united than it seems possible for siblings; they laugh and curse together. I am mostly silent, the cool water a perfect compliment to the blazing sun. Their happiness is something Ralph and I invested in for years and now it pays dividends rather effortlessly.

It’s hot, today. It’s so hot I have to rest a bit even after the minor effort of emerging from the lake and walking up the porch to come inside the warm cabin; perversely though, fresh hot coffee and soapy water for dishes, somehow feels good. I am wearing no makeup, my hair is in a lake-stained messy bun, I have given up every aim except lake life which is impossibly slow. There is nothing much to do at all except silently pace oneself for the cool-off, and then another hot shower, and padding barefoot into bed together to enter a syncopated rhythm as each family member falls asleep.

Both children have been coming here since just a couple months old. The fifth generation of my family. We gave them baths in the sink, those first visits.

Later, after dinner and when it’s finally cooling down, my oldest curls up catlike beside me on the patio chairs. I reach out to gently tug his ponytail and with a simple motion he releases his long locks from his hair tie. He’s always loved me to play with his hair but still, there are months that go by here and there when he resists any touches or caresses from me whatsoever. I say nothing when he lets me hold him close; I breathe in and appreciate this rare gift.

This rare gift.

Mason Lake, 2020

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