Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Bumper Boats

OOOOH! How cute! Look at the kids floating around in the bumper boats. The riders steer themselves as the boat's motor, (usually electric) powers them about across the water. 

When you put your child in a ride like the bumper boats, you want them to be safe. I've seen parents wading around in the water, following their little bumper-boated kid--just to be there if the bumper boat were to tip, or if their kid climbs out, or becomes aggressive--even worse, if someone else's kid bumper-bullies. Being harassed repeatedly while calmly floating in your own boat--can, I've been told, create long-lasting emotional wounds. In fact, some kids will never get in a boat again....which leads me to this:

As I reflect on my own childhood experiences, I remember that these sort of boat rides took place in a long, narrow canal-like pathway. Moving without any motor that we could see, there was no other direction we could go. We could turn the steering wheel, but it make no difference. It was a fake. 

Back in the good ole days, my dad had purchased a one-seat, fiberglass speedboat. The rider's legs flanked straight out on either side of the steering wheel, vertical with and on top of,  the boat's front. A single passenger boat--but what the hell? My sister was 5 years old, tops. Taking her for a spin across the lake and back in a boat for one seemed harmless. She was, after all small--not weighing much. She really didn't count as a real person. 

My dad got into the boat and sat my sister between the steering wheel and himself. Off they went, cruising across the lake. My dad calling to everyone--"Look at this boat! Have you ever seen anything like it?" After all, this was the newest, edgiest boat on the market. People in other boats gave him hardy thumbs up. The shoreline crowd moved closer to the lake to watch the cool guy in the newfangled speed boat.

Not my father.
My father loved basking in the spotlight. "Hello to you," my father shouted to every passerby. Zooming back and forth. Making crazy 8s and zig-zags. He did a George Washington crossing The Delaware pose as he criss-crossed in one direction, striking a body building pose on his way back.  
Not my father.

was jumping up and down--thrilled by the speed, the sound, the idea of being the only ones with a 'neat-o' boat. My brother ran along the beach.                                         

My father took the boat into a fast curve--and something went wrong--flipping the boat and dumping my father and sister into the lake. My father, drama king that he was, grabbed my sister and began the side stroke, pulling her with him. He tried to keep both of their heads above water...He was struggling, we all could tell. 

"Help!" my dad called to a lifeguard who looked up and then over to a group of kids playing on a large boulder.

"For God's sake! Help us," my father screams.

The lifeguard turns to my father, who is huffing, trying to save both himself and my father from what he thought was imminent--death by drowning. "Save the child," my father yells. "I've accepted my fate."

The life guard picks up a megaphone and yells to my father. "Sir...?"

We all glanced from the lifeguard to my father.

"Sir! Stand up."

My father stopped momentarily, as if trying to understand what the lifeguard meant. Then, in one quick movement, he stood up. The water, at best, was thigh-high.  Everyone on the shore began to laugh. Everyone close by in boats--howled. Everyone was in hysterics. Everyone, that is, except my father.

He looked toward us. It was written across his face.... and that of any possible Jew at the lake. We're Jews. What do we know about boating?

My brother, upon seeing that dad was okay, broke into the chant--originally used the first time anyone slipped coming upstairs from the living room to the bedrooms. It was a small flight of stairs and the possibility of real injury was low... 

"6.7, 5.4. 6.2, 3.4 (the French judge) and 5.8, " my brother yelled as if he was a panel of Olympic judges. Not bad for a Jew.

I don't know what happened to the boat. We never saw it again. But I can tell you this: whenever we kids went to a carnival that had boats, my mom warned us to never under any circumstances mention them when we got home. 

Some wounds are just too damn hard to heal.

No comments: