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  1. Dive Right In!

    Friday, April 12, 2013

    By Lisa Harmon

    I used to like to go camping. Even I can't believe that. I can hardly imagine sleeping outside and using a pit toilet. I chalk it up to naivete, extreme boredom and a lack of funds.

    We used to go to this campsite in Pennsylvania. It was called Promised Land State Park. I've seen the Promised Land. There is no plumbing.

    On one trip, someone brought their friend from work. When we finally got there, we'd been in the car a long time, and we were hot and sweaty. The tires had barely stopped when the doors flew open, we bolted for the lake and jumped in.

    The guy I didn't know, my friend's sister's co-worker, couldn't swim. He dove right into the water with everyone else but immediately began sputtering around. A couple of guys took him by his arms and brought him back to shore where he sat catching his breath while we all tried to make the best of it and forget how he's ruining our camping trip already.

    The first time I went swimming in a lake, I swam a ridiculous distance and ended up in the center. I turned around and saw how far I was from shore. It was far. I was exhausted. I didn't know how I would get back. My friends on the beach were so far away I'd have had to scream at them, and those dopes would think I was fooling around anyway.

    Later I found out that saltwater is much more buoyant than fresh water. Since I grew up going to Rockaway Beach (of the famed Ramones tune), I was used to salt water.

    We went to Rockaway Beach every summer and swam every day. We all loved the beach. I had a healthy respect for the ocean. The ocean can change in an instant, and one time, it did.

    My general rule was not go out further than my toes touching the bottom. We were swimming pretty close to those giant, treacherous jetties. Suddenly, the lifeguard started calling us in. We weren't doing anything and I didn't know why he was calling us in, but it was definitely us he was calling. I looked at my friend, he looked at me, and we started swimming in.

    Right then a wave hit. It seemed like a normal wave, but when I tried to touch my toes down again, I couldn't reach. The ground was gone. Completely, totally, way gone. The water must have been twice as deep as it had been just a couple of seconds before.

    I'd never experienced anything like that so I shifted into high gear and swam to shore after taking one last look to see Jimmy was still behind me.

    After the rescue at the lake, when everyone had settled down, they asked the embarrassed coworker “Why did you jump in the lake if you can't swim?” Good thing our parents weren't there because this would have proved their theory that the answer to the question “If all your friends went and jumped in a lake would you do it too?” is a resounding “Yes!” Finally they'd have undeniable proof that teenagers are that stupid.

    But I knew why he did it. It's not because we were stupid (we were) but because he thought he could swim. It never occurred to him that he couldn't swim. It never occurred to me either. A little bit of ignorance sure makes for a lot of confidence. I want to go back to those times – pre-adulthood, and pre-hurricane Sandy, to when Rockaway was still they way it was when I was a kid. I'd like to go back to the way I felt back then – alive, and excited and engaged. I want to jump in with no doubts, and live life with total confidence. I want to dive right in and make the most of every moment.

    What's the worst that can happen? I mean, its not like I'm going to drown or anything, right?

  2. 4 comments:

    1. not with real friends nearby, you won't drown.

    2. She So Funny said...

      Can completely relate to the nostalgia of wanting to go back... had very similar experiences camping ... my experience was jumping off of a boulder into a lake (full of snakes)... and the whole "where's the bottom" of the ocean... Ah, to be young again... ~S

    3. Anonymous said...

      Snakes! That's too scary. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    4. RHC said...

      Got that "Suddenly there's no bottom beneath me." panic in the pool at a dude ranch years ago. 1 minute fine, next minute I'm way NOT.

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