As the days started to get longer and the icebergs were no longer visible floating on top of the water, there was a good chance someone was going to jump in as soon as the air was over 50 degrees. It was time to swim and play in the mighty Niagara River! The people I grew up with were all of hearty Northern European stock. The brutal cold winds blowing from the north over the two great lakes on either side of them did not make them want to stay inside, and they did not look away from all the very hard work it took to create happiness in that harsh environment. When spring finally had a foot hold, these strong, fun-loving people would do everything to grasp hold and wring every bit of life from that short amount of time. So very soon the fall winds would start blowing once more.
My neighbor friend was a water skier. I enjoyed watching her from a boat or dock as she would jump in that icy water, come back up shaking the water from her head, put on those skis with her teeth chattering, but somehow smiling wide, and before you knew it, she was sailing along behind a boat like she was having a great time. But I knew better. How could anyone possibly enjoy doing that!
Every summer the same old thing. “Sharon, get in the water! You will get used to it!” That, “used to it”, now makes me laugh. You literally would need to get good and numb to enjoy it. When you no longer can feel your feet, and hands, that is when you know you are used to it. So I would slowly step in from the shore as my bare feet would sink into the 3 or more inches of mucky bottom with stringy seaweed tickling my legs in the swiftly flowing (this is the Niagara remember) river. Even as a child I wondered why anyone in their right mind would want to do this.
One of my uncles threw me off of the dock when I was about 8 years old. I have never been able to forget my total and complete shock. I thought everyone knew I could not swim and hated getting in that water. When I came up choking and crying, I remember all the laughter. Grand Island in the summertime. You must learn to enjoy it Sharon.
I managed to survive being tossed in the Niagara, but to this day I may never be comfortable being in water. I moved away from that place many years ago, but the memories of it are very special to me. It is funny the way the most scary things stand out from all the other normal moments in life, and then they seem like a wonderful oriental carpet. With all the gradations and colors blending to make something beautiful, even with those unforgettable moments from childhood.
Now I live in Tennessee. The summers here are long and hot. Winters are brief but I always look forward to them. I sometimes wonder if I could live in that mostly cold environment again. It is now so far away in my memory it makes me think I would enjoy it. Just don’t ask me to get in the water.
This large painting was completed last summer of the Caney Fork River in Tennessee on hot summer days. So many wildflowers in Tennessee bloom all summer. This is such a beautiful state to live!