I don't remember my exact age but it was when the Christmas season was still magical and scavenging for hidden presents was my primary pastime. I never unearthed any big treasures as my mother, who was on to me, hid gifts outside the home to preserve the element of surprise... with one exception. One year I spotted, to my great delight and excitement, a box with a picture of an inflatable boat under my parent's bed. It turned out to be a very temporary holding spot because the next day the box was gone.
I spent the rest of the days leading up to Christmas fretting over if the boat perhaps was intended for someone else, but luckily it was for me and what a gift it turned out to be. It was a super cool gray two person boat with a blue stripe running down the side and I could not wait to see it in its full glory. For some reason though, it was a major undertaking inflating this boat. I assume we did not have access to a good pump, or any pump for that matter, but I frankly can't remember.
What I can remember is that we always had the boat inflated and transported it to the beach by having it "sit" in the backseat of my mother's car sticking right up in the air with me inside it, weighing it down so the boat would not fly off. My mother at the time drove a convertible Citroën 2CV which, if you are not familiar with this unique vehicle, is a tuna tin can shaped like a lemon. It was thrilling! Here I better quickly point out that this was back when there were no car seats, no seat belts in the back and no restrictions on what could be transported in a convertible.
I passed many happy summer days in that inflatable boat and it was with a childlike eagerness that I recently purchased a near replica for an upcoming lake camping trip. It was purchased officially for my son but in my heart it was really for me. I wanted to see if I could recreate that special childhood feeling and was therefore not the least bit disappointed when my son wanted to go canoe fishing with his second cousin, and I got to inflate the boat and take it out on the lake solo.
It took me a little while to figure out the rowing but then it was everything I had wished it would be: quiet yet full of the sounds of nature, beautiful trees and sunlight reflections in the water's surface, the pleasure of drifting aimlessly, the fun of jumping off and getting back in, the heat on the plastic and the deeply relaxing feeling of being rocked by the water. I frolicked the afternoon away, thoroughly enjoying myself and felt lighter when I rowed back in.
I went out again in the morning but eventually deflated the boat for our return trip, no adventurous car rides for this one, and once home patted it down gently and hung it in the garage to dry out completely. There it now hangs, not sadly deflated, but rather perched ready for our next trip together, making me smile.
"We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing."
-- George Bernard Shaw