Making Memories

I love that Kate feels safe on the water.  So many don’t. 

“Daddy, let’s look for spouts.” 

That’s what she said to me today, as we loitered at the end of the harbor’s jetty.  The endless Pacific stared at us, and we bobbed, undecided.  I observed the swell direction, boat traffic, wind, and the chop. 

“Look for whales?”

“Yeah, let’s find whales.”

“Probably not the best day for that honey, but when you’re a little older, we’ll do it all the time together.”

“Okay.  But can we see what’s on the other side.”

Kate wanted to turn the corner on the jetty, and see the beach on the other side.  That I agreed to do. 

We slowly pulled around, and snuck a peek into Corona del Mar beach.  Being January, it was empty.  A few Pelicans circled.  A few gulls contemplated our uncomfortable proximity. 

Kate sat on her yellow plastic chair on the front of the board, slightly weighing down the front.  At only 30 pounds though, her presence on the board was barely felt. 

I have taken a number of people out to SUP, first timers, and they are always nervous leaving the harbor.  But, here’s my four-year old, practically begging me to venture out further, to go find some whales.  This makes me happy.

Not every day on the water has been the picture of peace.  We’ve had tearful paddles, with me trying to figure out how to paddle with no hands.  You can’t paddle while holding a crying, cold, and shivering child who has just fallen in the water. 

Just a few weeks ago, we spotted Mama on a long training run around the back bay trail.  We paddled close to shore to say hi to her, and while we pulled up to talk to her, my board’s fin snagged on a submerged rock, stopped us dead in our tracks, and I went flying.  Kate’s chair fell into the water, and Kate went in headlong.  I caught her by the armpit, to keep her head from going under, but her feet awkwardly scraped along some sharp barnacled rocks.  The blood started flowing when I got her back on the board, and on her chair.  When she saw the blood, she was inconsolable, and we were a long way from the car where I could get her patched up.  I had to paddle back with her crying all the way.

Today, however, with the barnacle scar still healing, she happily slurped on a lollipop, while we paddled, pointing out the school of fish darting about underneath us. 

“Look Dad, Garibaldi!”

On the way back, we paddled near a walkway above the water.  Morning walkers with hot coffee strolled above us.  A woman with a large black sun hat and glasses, stopped to smile at us, and she said, “You are making such amazing memories for her, Dad.” 

I hope she’s right.  I have only a few hazy memories of my fourth year of life.  It is hard to imagine that these weekly Sunday paddles will be lost from her little head.  But I hope she remembers some of these beautifully bright days, when she was full of wonder, when the sight of a starfish filled her with joy, when she looked for whales with her Dad. Or even better, I hope that as an expert adult paddler, when someone asks her when she started paddling, she’ll answer that she has been paddling her entire life.

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