These Normal Stories Expanded Stories, Linked from This Normal Life
Thursday, July 03, 2003
It’s the final day of a wonderful vacation in Southern California, and we are at the beach. Even though it’s the middle of the week, the place is packed beyond belief, each body more sculpted and perfectly bronzed than the next.
And then there’s me. I’m fit enough all right, though it's highly doubtful anyone would ever refer to me as 'pumped up.' And as for the tan? No, the beach is not a location I frequent or feel particularly comfortable with. Too much sun can give you cancer, anyway.
But my kids are another story. We’ve taken to calling them our “little brown berries”(with appropriate slathering of sun screen of course). They adore the water. Can’t get enough of it. If we lived near a beach year round, I’m sure they’d start calling me Dude instead of Dad.
The one thing they love most is when Dude, that is, Dad, comes in to play. Merav probably loves it more than any of the three of them. A few precious moments of pure fun with her father.
And today she has decided it’s time to teach me how to boogie board.
To the uninitiated, a boogie board is like a small surfboard except that it’s made of soft styrofoam rather than hard plastic and fiberglass.
And you don’t stand on it. “You wait for a wave," Merav explains matter-of-factly, "then you ride it on your belly.”
Seems simple enough.
I sidle into the water. “Man it’s cold!” I shriek as the water gets a little too close for comfort.
“You’ll get used to it,” Merav calms me. Ah, the things we do for our kids.
We head out as deep as we can and then wait for a big one. If the wave is too small or it crests too early, you’re supposed to jump over it. Or dive through the middle.
Yeah, like that’s going to happen.
Merav spots a sufficiently large wave. “OK, get ready!” she cries out.
I turn my back to the wave, position myself for the ride of my life and…
Slam! The water hits me hard, like a belly flop, except that I’m standing still.
“Ow that hurt!” I say to Merav. I seem to remember a golden rule: never turn your back to the ocean.
Before I can finish the thought, another wave crashes on top of me and pulls me under momentarily. I shut my eyes tight to keep the salt water out and am hit by the smell of fish I’m sure the Jewish dietary laws won’t let me eat.
Merav is laughing. Not at me, but with me. Yes, I’m sure of that.
Rather than become discouraged, I sense a surprising determination welling up. I will master this thing.
I study the other boogie boarders. Why don’t they get knocked over? What do they know that I don’t?
“Merav,” I call out. “I think they’re jumping up to meet the wave when it comes. I’m going to try that.”
My doting audience-of-one watches. Wave comes. I jump. I don’t get slammed this time, but I don’t ride it either.
What am I doing wrong here?
Merav shrugs her shoulders. She’s just enjoying the water and her father. She isn’t old enough to feel passionately about goals, at least not in the way I've made this boogie board bonanza my own personal Moby Dick.
And so it goes. I try more jumping, then crouching. I twirl and dive and even flip. All the while Merav is splashing and bouncing, never taking her eyes off of me.
Time flies. I feel myself getting tired. And then we spot it. The big one. A truly Dude-erific wave. I get into position. Jump or crouch…who knows? As the wave arrives, it catches me and I’m propelled forward like a liquid cannon ball. It’s such a rush.
“Yeee-hah!” I yell. I really did. “Did you see me? Did you?”
Now who’s the kid?
Merav beams. Her father is not a total klutz. (OK, that’s just me projecting.)
I try to recreate the ride but apparently it’s a one shot deal. Still, I accomplished my goal. I am king of the Boogie Boarders.
The Boogie Man.
Looking at Merav in the water, her corn braids glistening in the afternoon sun, I realize she had a goal after all, and she achieved it with flourish: an afternoon of unfettered father-daughter time.
In the end, it didn’t matter if I caught one wave or a hundred. Just as long as were in it together.
I can’t wait to do it again. Next time in Israel. Maybe we’ll even take surf lessons.
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