The water is knee deep and cool, with tiny, not-even waves lapping at the shore. It’s the bay, after all. The uninviting entrance greets with piles of dried seaweed atop an old metal pipe and plasticized canvas likely placed there to hold sand and stave off erosion. I’ve crossed this threshold over the years, with my friend’s paddle board in hand. Never thought of swimming here. It’s so shallow, and it’s not the ocean – no waves, energizing white surf or draw of the tide.
But those children, they go in, always do, into any water they can find. Why here? The bay is warmer. And that shallowness – they can out far, swim, play, wrestle, explore with childlike glee defying their teenage eye skepticism. Look what we can see so close in the clear water! Minnows (our generic name for those tiny fish that circle our legs). Plants. A turtle? Maybe a crab. Shells, neutral stones that glisten with water and sunlight. Look out across the bay, to the causeway, and the occasional sailboat that calls out longingly to my windsurfers. Watch the wind change. The ripples move, and we feel the water change course in seconds.
They swim. To the buoy, maybe 25 yards, and back, back and forth. Out to the edge of the dock. Back and forth, longer than the lap lanes of a pool, emboldened by the open space. Come in, they beckon. I sit on that seaweed and watch, ever the lifeguard, noting the distinctive poise and movements of each child, peacefully taking note.
And then I join in, stroke by stroke. When my meditative swimming rhythm kicks in, it is like finding an old friend in the sea. I look up and see each child in the water, now, and before, as they splashed, kicked, and formed their strokes in so many pools, oceans and lakes. Aside one confident water child I pause amazed, poolside screams of toddlerhood piercing my memory. Now, side by side, we reach toward the openness of our own little piece of sea, calmly in sync. The shallow waters ripple with depth.