Our two boats tied up together in the cove, adjacent from the shores of the Potomac, I could hear the giggles echo from the belly of our friends’ boat as our young kids played board games together to escape the blistering sun. I took advantage of the moment to scurry below deck on our boat to whip up some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Although I was content to be working down in the coolness of the galley, the hairs on the back of my neck produced a fine tingle that compelled me to glance out the window. As if in a trance, I laid the jelly-drenched knife into the sink. Something wasn’t right. I glanced, first out the small galley windows, then around the periphery of the boats and around the horizon. For some unknown reason, I was mysteriously drawn up the stairs of the galley.
I glanced around, wondering why I felt compelled to abandon the half-finished sandwiches below. Everything seemed normal. Our husbands were busy tasking up front, polishing fiberglass and winding up ropes. I could hear the laughter of our kids inside the other boat as they burst into a fit of laughter as they threw their Candyland pieces at each other.
Too much sun, I thought to myself. I turned, ready to descend back down to finish assembling the half-finished sandwiches. Instead, I gazed once more across the dive platform from the stern of the boat, and squinted my eyes to focus on what I thought was a lump of hydrilla floating in the water only a few feet from the boat. Because of the lack of rain, the mossy, stringy plants were common in the river this time of year.
My dream state suddenly took on a nightmarish quality as I realized it wasn’t hydrilla. I couldn’t believe my eyes as I gazed at what I soon recognized as my small daughter’s long mane of chestnut brown hair floating on the surface of the water. My thoughts raced, and my eyes darted around the boat as the logic of disturbing sequences all fell into place in my mind. I could see her life jacket draped loosely across the railing of the boat. When the reality of what had happened hit me, I darted over the railing of the boat onto the dive platform and leaning over with my outstretched arm, pulled her straight out of the water by the top of her head, her hair clenched tightly in my fist. As her head rose from the water, she gasped for air as her eyes darted madly trying to focus on me. As I yanked her to safety, my stomach felt queazy as I realized what could have happened had I waited one more moment or returned down to the galley.
She had apparently slipped quietly from the kids at play, and unbenounced to anyone, managed to find her way across the one boat onto ours. In her desparation to cool off, she had manipulated the clasps on her life jacket with her tiny fingers, and decided to cool off in the murky water…quietly, and without so much as a ripple.
Angels? Maybe. But it’s times like these that can bring even the most cautious of us parents to our trembling knees.
It was just a basic peanut butter and jelly sandwich – assembled without much forethought, simplistic and enjoyable, and so often taken for granted. But it can also be potent enough to produce a deadly allergy.
Life is like that. Yeah, it really is.