Father and Son

Fri, 22 Aug 1997

Last Saturday I went for the day to Solair Recreation League. I took Peter. It was to be a father and son day; and it was. It was a pretty usual place really. Tucked away in the Connecticut hills perched on the edge of a lake is Solair. The first thing that struck me was in the front office. The office is right inside the gate which is a high wooden fence really. Peter and I went in. There was a rotating rack full of tee shirts on hangers and a display on the wall of other gifts and trinkets all of which I'm sure bore the logo. Then, as if by deja vu, I felt like I was in an Allen Funt "candid camera" movie. The two women behind the counter had no clothes on.

It was just odd enough to really stand out. Noel, with brown hair almost shoulder length, and pearcing eyes said hello first. She was a pale golden brown like a pancake. And like a pancake her coloring was flawless. I had never before seen anyone so perfectly one color. Being so preoccupied I had forgotten to speak.

It was just as well. Christine, standing next to her, finished getting me registered. Then Leo introduced himself and we followed his motorized golf cart to a parking spot and then joined him for a rolling tour.

Leo pointed out sight after sight trying to be friendly enough but I was remembering back at how much fun I had had at the YMCA day camp years and years ago. Once in the water it had been the councelors against the kids. We would try and dunk them and they would try and break free. We would cling on to an arm, a neck, a leg. Only to be sent flying in all different directions as he moved like godzilla thru the water. It seemed odd, after all, that skinnydipping was fun for no related reason. It just was. Peter wasn't interested and was beginning to get surly. All he wanted was to find a video arcade and spend quarters. This was my mistake. I had called two resorts and had confused the two. This was not going as I had planned. We had come for a father and son day. I wanted to make up in part for the vacation in Atlantic City. I had had to leave early to get back to work. Without me there was little he could do on his own. He just wasn't old enough to use the facilities by himself. So I promised him this time that as long as I was with him we could do anything together. Now it seem he wasn't interested in anything.

At the end of the tour we were back at the car and I coaxed him into leaving his clothes behind so we could go down to the beach and try out the kayaks. He wrapped himself in a towel and reluctantly came along. He had never been in a kayak before. We emptied the water out and I adjusted the foot rests for him while he put on a life preserver. He was trying to manage the paddle while holding his towel with one and when, quite simply he gave up and with one quick, "what the heck" thru the towel on the seat and sat on it. I pushed his kayak clear of the sandy bottom and quickly launched my own.

He began drifting towards reeds. I talked him thru how to use his paddle to go straight and to turn. Within minutes he had the knack. Moments later he was speeding down the lake. I was in hot pursuit trying to catch up. Near the end of the lake was cottage. Down at its dock was a half submerged hull of what looked like a viking ship, only wider abeam. We cautiously, quietly approached for a better look, not wanting to startle anyone in our current state. The boat had the classic prowe of a viking long boat tipped with a dragon's head. Still it looked more like a swiming pen than a boat. "Hello, there." I heard a voice say from the wooden deck of the cottage. He had startled me but the voice sounded friendly enough so I soon felt at ease.

I hadn't wanted to come upon strangers here because I had no way of knowing how they would react to nude kayakers. That fear was throughly unfounded. They were nude, too! I smiled as it finally began to sink in. The beach, the pond, the woods and hills all around, all the cottages whether on their main road or set apart, were all for nudists and naturists. We spent several minutes chatting with the man and his wife before Peter became restless and we took off again back down the lake.

It took no coaxing at all to get Peter to go swimming when we got back. I suggested going out to the raft and he agreed. He had been on similar rafts but only in shallow water, up to 4 feet. That was in a cove in Matapoiset, Boston's south shoren. That cove had a singular distintion of being shallow for what looked like miles. During low tide it was said to be possible to walk to an island that looked to me to be at least a mile or more off. Here though the pond's bottom dropped off gracefully. The raft floated in 7 or 8 feet of water. This was the first time I had seen Peter swim in deep water for any distance. He had a quick and powerful stroke but chose to dog paddle. He seemed perfectly at home. Just as removing his trainer wheels had revealed a hidden talent for balance on a bicycle, his time in shallow water had prepared him for this moment.

On the raft were six girls ranging in age from about 5 to 14 and one gentleman who seemed uninvolved. The girls were busy; Walking together from corner to corner watching for who would be first to fall off or running together hand in hand in a line to jump or dive into the water. It all came back to me in memories. How Boris, at first the heaviest kid at camp, had lead the "inspections" of the corners of our raft at Ormsby Hill boys camp. And now, I hoped it would be the begining of Peter's turn. The girls could have all been related; sisters, cousins. More likely they were neighbors or families which were close thru the year. I asked. Only two were sisters. Several had been coming here for several years. They were from towns I had heard of. They all had brown or blonde hair. It was hard to tell because they were, of course, wet. They were all thin but not overly so. And they were all comfortable and talkative among themselves. If any were newcomers I couldn't tell. I introduced Peter. He didn't say much.

We jumped and dived for a while because the day was hot and the water was perfect. When we got tired we found two large inflated 'donuts' and each tried to push the other with much laughter and splashing. Just about then my stomach clock went off. It was time for 'the social'. All the parents and kids, probably about a hundred in all, gathered around the picnic tables and dug into watermellon and nachos and grapes and veggies and dip and "really good punch", says Pete. Now, stuffed, we headed for the game room and hot tub where I proceeded to teach the finer point of table tennis: the fore hand, the back hand, the 'english', to which my son add the "Duck!". (I got good at 'the duck'.)

Well, our time was running out. It had been a beautiful sunny warm day. A day long worth remembering. How much fun it had been to feel the sun and water all over us and share the laughter and games. How perfectly natural to splash eachother from inner tubes and watch the clouds lazily roll by. I didn't want the day or the summer to end. It seemed as though we had found an almost magical far away place. But it wasn't so far away. And not only that, we were home in time for dinner.

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