Paddling the canoe down river, I finally understood what Dad meant.
| I lived a sheltered life during my growing up years. I was not only the youngest of my parents' children, but I was the smallest as well. I didn't grow as I should have, and it took until my adult years for my body to catch up with my actual age. As a matter of fact, until I started having children of my own, I retained a very petite figure. Just as well, my features made me look quite a bit younger than I actually was, and I was well into my late thirties before they, finally, stopped asking me for I.D. to buy cigarettes.
Needless to say, the issue of my being so tiny, added to the fact that I was to be the last child that my mother would bear, she tried to keep me her "baby". She made every effort to keep me close to her skirts. I was to be the "little princess", and was treated (more oft than not) as an infant; coddled, pampered, indulged, and spoiled in every way possible; as long as it would keep me by her side. Therefore, the more adventurous past-times, such as camping, hiking, sports, and all other manners of activities were forbidden to me. That did not, however, keep me from soaking in all the stories my three older brothers, and single sister, would relay to me upon their return. Dad would even pitch in to try to make things more real. Oh, how I envied them all.
Thank God for time, maturity, and the laws of man that allowed for me to have a say in my own activities once I became an adult. Try as she may, Mom simply could not persuade me that I was going to be permanently damaged if I actually exerted a bit of physical effort toward a desired activity, and much to her dismay, I was off like a shot as soon as I became of age.
During all of the tales spun, by my siblings, with Dad's embellishments, I could only imagine what sensations they experienced. I would have to use the feel of a fan, blowing in my face, to connect with the rush of wind. I had to run around, in circles (driving Mom to distraction with anxiety), within the confines of the house in order to imagine the thrill of competing in a sport; using the couch as a goal, on one end of the living room, and the fireplace as its opposite. I would lay in the ray of light, coming in the window, to imagine tanning on the beach. Yet, nothing I tried ever seemed to match their enthusiasm in the telling.
So many times, they would try their hardest to help me understand, but the things they described were too difficult to simulate. One of those times was when they had come back from a camping trip, and they tried to describe the spray of the river, on their faces, as they made their way to the campsite in narrow boats. For this reason, a river trip was one of the first things I planned to do as soon as I could. Then, finally, as I was paddling the canoe down the river for the first time, I was able to understand what they meant. I, no longer, had to imagine.
Nothing held me back after that.