The girls called yesterday afternoon from a boat, of all places. A big boat, they emphasized. A big double-decker pontoon with a grill for hot dogs and a water slide.
"And guess what?" Aisling said eagerly. "I got to drive the boat a whole lot!"
This gave me a moment of...something or other. You see, I spend a lot of time with Aisling and I know her very well. And ordinarily, I wouldn't dream of letting her drive some Matchbox cars around the dining room table, let alone drive a pontoon filled with the closest members of our family around a big lake.
"Oh, it's okay," she assured me. "Kiersi got to drive the boat, too."
Kiersi is my niece. She's just a little over two feet tall and is nineteen months old. What were all the adults doing? I wondered. Lounging around on deck chairs while Meelyn served Long Island iced teas?
As it turned out, Poppy was at the wheel, too, supervising all this boat-driving in a very responsible manner. I feel so relieved. I had this picture of Aisling, a captain's hat backwards on her head, driving the pontoon so fast that the front end was lifted out of the water like a ski boat, straight at a little canoe full of nuns or something.
"And guess what else?" Aisling asked me. Honestly, there are times when I hardly know how to answer this question. It's highly possible that I could say. "Uhhmmm....you were skipping rocks in the lake and all of a sudden, the Loch Ness monster appeared and said, 'Hi! I'm visiting from Scotland!' and then offered you a powdered sugar doughnut?" and she'd say in disappointment, "How did you know?"
So I'm careful. That's all I'm saying.
As it turns out, the other thing that happened is that Aisling was walking barefoot and stubbed her fourth toe on some cement and it bled a lot. Nanny bought some peroxide and Aisling cried a lot. "Because it hurt," she said. "It made me miss you."
I gulped and managed to squeak, "Did Nanny kiss it?"
Aisling giggled. "No, Mommy. It's my toe."
"It's a rule," I said sternly. "Tell her that I am citing her for dereliction of duty if that toe remains unkissed."
"Nanny, Mommy says you have to kiss my toe," Aisling called to her.
"And my toe, too," I said. "Tell her that. That's what she gets for being a big toe-non-kisser."
Meelyn got on the phone after that and told me that she had gone down the slide on the pontoon a thousand times.
"And we pulled an inner tube behind the boat," she said. "That was a lot of fun, but Uncle Pat was driving and he made the boat go fast and the water all came up over the inner tube."
"Did he think that was funny?" I asked, knowing my brother and how he would never be able to resist pushing that speed up just a little bit faster...just...a...little...faster. It's exactly the same thing I would have done, or expected to have done to me, if I were the one on the inner tube.
"Oh, yeah," she said, laughing. "He did it to everyone. But Kiersi doesn't like being in the water. She got a little grouchy. The boys and I are having fun though, going down the slide. Poppy went down, too."
I had another moment or something or other, trying to imagine my portly father, one of the most dignified people I know, going down a curvy water slide off a pontoon. Will wonders never cease? It's like someone just told me that apples can fly or that my mailbox is a portal to another world, like Narnia only better.
The girls will be home tomorrow. I'm so glad. And I can hardly wait to see my dad, to see if this water sliding experience has changed him.
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