Monday, September 9, 2013

My Canoe Story

When I was 19, 20, and 21 I was filled with a lot of energy. At least a lot more than my normal capacity for teasing now. My short term life experience plans included going to Chile, seeing Europe, perhaps China, getting a bank account, figuring out what would be fun to do at university, seeing every new movie, and hanging out with friends who made me laugh. These plans included did not include being married. TI was convinced that there was some truth in the popular saying that I would hear repeated to me when I would say I was going to university: 90% of the women in the world are beautiful. The other 10% go to university. I was interested in university, -- so I just figured I wouldn’t be getting married. When I would go on a date and someone would begin a conversation where there was any possibility of romantic overtones, I would think of the good years yet ahead of me and I wouldn’t entertain romance as a remote possibility. For example, if the lights were low and a man said to me something like, “I had a dream about you last night,” I would interrupt before I heard anymore about that and say, “Oh no, I would call a dream like that a nightmare.” I would get those lights up and make it difficult to set a romantic mood again.

Setting the above context for my story, now a nice guy, Cam Spenser, asked me to go canoeing with him at Bowness Park. The Bowness Park of my childhood included a water fountain in the middle of a lagoon. At night coloured lights lit up the fountain and romantic music was piped from the middle of the fountain through the rest of the park. Couples glided in canoes weaving their way along canals meandering through wooded areas . The canals were narrow and only had room for two boats to pass.

My date began as I stood at the rental outlet, idly listening to the tickets for the ride being purchased, overhearing the manager tell Cam the price per hour, the cost of the paddles and the managaer underlining the fact that if the paddles came back damaged or lost there would be an additional cost to him. Off we paddled, idle chatter, at one point Cam saying to me, “I wonder how deep this canal is. I have been testing it out and I can’t touch the bottom of the canal if I put my paddle in.”

I began teasing. “That is funny. I can feel the bottom of the canal with me paddle” “You can? I am going way down with mine, as straight as I can and even up to my elbow on my side. No bottom here.”

“That is odd. Look it is so shallow here I can feel the bottom,” and I jammed my paddle up and down in the water, pretending each time that my paddle is being stopped by the bottom of the canal.

He tries again on his side, showing me that still he can’t feel the bottom. I look quizzically at him and show him for a third timed how on my side I am touching the bottom. He takes his paddle and on his side and this time gives it a mighty shove downward. It does not come back up, now lodged in the silt at the bottom of the canal. I see the look on his face. He is a poor university student with no money to spare. I say, “I wonder what is going to happen now.”

He says, “You are going to let me off on the bank and then you are going to paddle around the corner. I am going to go diving for the paddle.” He gets out and I go around the corner, wait an appropriate amount of time and then paddle back. There he is on the bank, fully dressed now, holding the paddle in one hand and carrying his soaked and dripping wet garments in the other hand. I am surprised at his modesty. What was the use of me going around the corner if he wasn’t even planning on skinny-dipping his way into the water.

I tell my dad about the incident later that night. Doral says, ”I am disappointed in you, Arta”. I am 19 but I still like my dad’s approval. I think ... yes, I maybe I did cross the line, teasing this earnest fellow. My dad continues. “Why didn’t you glide around the corner, park the canoe, walk back and steal his clothes when he was in the water. Disappointing.”

That is the moment when I knew I would never truly be my father’s daughter. Years later, I got an invitation to Cam’s wedding. By that time my husband was doing a master’s degree and we had two children. Money was so tight I had none for a gift for the new couple. I always felt bad about not being able to go to the wedding. At the very least I wanted to give him a paddle... or a pair of dry garments.


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