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Mom Liked Water On Her Terms

Mom Liked Water On Her Terms Mom really didn't like fishing and the outdoors....or so I thought!

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My mom liked water...on her own terms.

My mom liked water...on her own terms.

While my dad's side of our family loved the outdoors, my mother was not a fan of nature and had a particular aversion to water, which she attributed to her harrowing experience trying to pass the required swimming test during her weeks in Navy Boot Camp. The story goes that her first two attempts required lifeguard rescue. She finally mustered out of basic training by virtue of being able to jump into water and get back on dry land without assistance. Once she became a full-fledged Navy Wave, she was happily dry docked as a secretary where she met and married a cute Navy trumpet player—my dad.
   After they were discharged from their military service, they moved to New Mexico, where my dad's parents lived, and soon nearly every weekend included family excursions into the wilderness. Apparently, my mom could climb mountains, but had to be carried back down. She could shimmy half way across a log bridge, but dad had to pry her trembling fingers lose from the log and coach her to the other side. Suffice it to say, she preferred to do most anything besides tromping through the great out of doors.
   After us children came along, Daddy eagerly taught us to love and respect nature through camping trips around north Texas and southern Oklahoma, and bless her heart, Mom always came along. However, while we waded in the lake and fished, Mom sat in a lawn chair reading and sketching. At night after she snuggled us into sleeping bags under the stars, Mom curled up in the back seat of the car to sleep. That area of the country was home to way too many bugs, spiders, and critters for her comfort.
   Imagine our surprise when my mom announced that she'd found and intended to purchase a parcel of land with an unfinished A-Frame cabin on a channel of Lake Granbury, Texas. She enthusiastically told us she hoped to spend every weekend out there. After a bit of marital negotiating and financial finagling, Mom and Dad bought that land in the spring of 1975.
   Now, when I say that A-Frame was unfinished, to its credit it had running water, air-conditioning and heat, a kitchen with working appliances, and a full bathroom. But the cabin also had a few quirks. The inside walls were insulated, but not yet covered with plasterboard and the floor was simply a plywood subfloor with wide enough gaps for mice to make an indoor playground out of the living area. Whoever wired the cabin forgot to run electricity into the bathroom. That proved to be quite a challenge at night since scorpions and snakes frequently crawled and slithered their way up through the pipes into the tub.
   Because of my mom's aversion to water and outdoor living, we quickly concluded that Mom's primary interest in the property was the A-frame itself. She liked art, gardening, and interior design, so it was easy to imagine Mom finishing out the cabin, planting flowers, sitting on the deck with a cup of coffee and a sketchpad, and then at the end of the day she'd fry up the fish we'd caught for supper. She did all that, but during a rare spring weekend alone at the lake with my mom, I discovered the nature loving side of my mother.
   That particular Saturday morning I awoke to the aroma of coffee and bacon. Instantly hungry, I threw on my jeans and T-shirt, splashed a little water on my face, and went downstairs to breakfast, but Mom wasn't around. I checked the deck, circled the house and scoped out the lightly wooded areas close to the cabin. No mom.
   After about a thirty minute walk along the channel, where it narrowed to just a trickle of water gurgling over a few rocks, I finally saw her. She sat on a patch of short grass and early morning sunshine highlighted a few golden strands in her auburn hair. Both her coffee mug and sketchpad were tossed aside.
   I stood between a clump of scrawny mesquite trees about twenty feet away and watched as Mom scooped up handful after handful of water and let it spill slowly back into the stream. It wasn't what Mom did that surprised me, though. I'd seen Mom dribble water through her hands at the kitchen sink plenty of times. I remembered her bathing my youngest brother and letting the tepid water slide through her fingers while he played in the tub. I'd seen her pour her coffee slowly into her cup, and when she watered her flowers and plants, she always turned on the faucet so only a tiny stream flowed from the hose. What amazed me was the look of utter contentment on her face. I'd never seen my mother so serene yet so vibrantly alive as in that moment.
   I shifted my weight a little and a twig snapped, breaking the spell. Mom looked up, saw me watching her, and instantly reached for her drawing as she dried her wet hand on her pants. I shuffled closer to her and asked, "Who are you and what did you do with my mom?"
   "I just thought I'd try to draw before it gets too hot."
   "Looked to me like you were playing in the water. My mom hates water. You aren't my mother."
   "Oh, I like water—on my own terms. I don't want to get in it. I don't like ooshy gunk between my toes. I like the sound of tiny streams of water as it spills over rocks."
   I sat down beside her, scooped up some water, let it splash back into the stream, and then flicked a few drops into her face.
   "Now cut that out," she said, "or I'll go back inside." She drew a curved line on the pad and smudged it with her fingertip then set the pad and pencil on the grass. "I like to listen to water.
   It's a happy, peaceful, soothing sound." She let another handful of water seep through her fingers. "It's music. Like a lullaby, don't you think? Listen..."
   I leaned back on my elbows, closed my eyes, and listened to the water music Mom created. Each handful poured back into the stream at a different velocity and volume became a micro symphony. A mockingbird sang from its perch in the treetops adding its own countermelody. After a few minutes, Mom lay back on the grass beside me.
   "Why did you buy this place, Mom?"
   "You all enjoy fishing and lakes and being outdoors and I like an air conditioned house. It seemed like a win-win situation to me."
   "And..."
   "And...because I wanted to have a place to think and draw and enjoy the sunrise in the springtime..."
   "And you actually like the water too, don't you?"

   She avoided looking me in the eyes, but a contented smile crept across her face as she said, "Yes, I like water—on my terms."

Reprinted with permission from Pond Boss Magazine

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