Spring break, 2012, and my parents, my three younger siblings, and I left North Carolina for a two day stay in a lakeside home at Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia.
The first day was perfectly enjoyable; however, our excursion took an unpleasant twist when we were returning home from dinner on the second night, in our rental pontoon. The water was smooth and the last rays of sun were just beginning to seep from the cloudless sky when a huge yacht sped past us, leaving a massive wake, soon to be conquered by our tiny boat. Dad prepared the ship, turning its head to face the on-coming wave, just as he had been instructed to do in such a situation. We hit the first mountain of water.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
“Wee!” we cheered, but the fun rapidly dissolved as the front of the pontoon lunged downward, unable to recover its position before the onslaught of another wave. The rear engine shot into the air and the floor of the boat filled with water.
My siblings and I, completely soaked in icy lake water, sat in bewildered shock. Mom, however, sprang from her seat and pulled the sopping blankets from our laps, sweeping water from the deck as she did so. Everyone gathered in the rear seats, which luckily hadn’t been touched by the cold fingers of the waves, and examined the damage at the front. Unable to resist the powerful waves, the front metal panels had been forced from their frames and now hung loosely, dented and scratched, before us.
For the rest of the ride home, we sat, pressed together for warmth, mostly in silence. My sister complained that her toes were going numb, and I told her to remove her shoes so I could warm her feet in my hands. It was the least I could do to ease the journey.
Dad drove the pontoon steadily onward, an empty, fearful look in his eye. I was not so upset by the events, but I could see the ghostly images of boat repair expenses marching angrily in his mind. “Don’t worry, Dad. They won’t charge us too much. I mean, it wasn’t our fault.” The boat labored silently forward.
The next morning, we rose with the sun to return our broken boat. Dad climbed into the driver’s seat, drowsy from lack of sleep. Bad dreams, I suppose.
As we pulled out of our shaded dock, magnificent ribbons of sunlight pranced across the water, penetrating the misty air and warming our drooping spirits. A cool morning breeze rollicked in the gleaming ripples sliding off the pontoon. Out in the middle of the lake, I raised my head to take in the beautiful sunrise, the fiery gleam stretching across the horizon, reassuring us, showing us hope.
The boat slowed; we were nearing the rental dock. An employee secured the boat as Dad explained the damage. The man replied, “Oh, don’t worry, this happens all the time.” I smiled as the tension drained from Dad’s face.
And so we returned to our home in North Carolina, having paid no extra fees for damage on the pontoon. All tension evaporated in the morning sun, and we were free to laugh about our watery adventures. As I reflected on such events, I rejoiced in the valuable time spent with my family. Certainly, despite the chilling wind, despite the angry waves, despite the cold feet and wet blankets, I had the beautiful opportunity to grow closer to each member of my family, whether in joy or in hardship. I would not trade that simple experience for anything.
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