By Jill Pertler
They were splashing in the waist-high water of the lake. Boisterous and loud. Three boys on either side of about 10 years old – if my estimate was accurate. I sat on the dock, observing from a distance.
The sun shone from behind a splattering of light cloud cover in the otherwise blue sky. The wind blew steadily – stronger than usual – cooling the warm summer air, causing waves and even a few whitecaps on the lake.
For once I could watch without the responsibility for maintaining safety in the water. These boys reminded me of my own and their energy was familiar but they themselves were not.
They were just three young boys, playing in the water with their own mom and dad watching them from the shore. They had numerous toys at their availability lying on the grass. Instead they chose to dunk and tackle. Every once in awhile one of them would let out a whoop of victory when he’d ambushed one of his brothers in an especially covert dunk, in their timeless game of rowdy roughhousing and unrestrained childhood fun.
After everyone had been sufficiently dunked, they retreated to shore, donning beach towels with the intention of drying their shoulders. But the games hadn’t ended yet. The wind unexpectedly blew beneath a towel and soon one of them was running across the lawn, holding the terry cloth to his shoulders while it lifted in the wind behind him, like a makeshift a Superman cape. Another of the boys followed, and another and before you can say kryptonite, the three of them were transformed into flying superheroes running along the shoreline.
As the capes flew higher in the wind, the towels became kites and the boys pulled and tugged on the “strings,” which were actually the towels, in order to keep their imaginary kites airborne and reaching for the clouds.
The wind shifted and one “kite” fell, hitting a nearby brother on the shoulder. This launched a battle. The cape-kites became weapons, as towels are obviously wont to be, and the boys swatted at each other, again whooping and hollering when the onslaught became particularly intense or immensely fun. Before I could decide whether they were fighting with imaginary swords or light sabers, the towel underwent another change as their duel shifted seamlessly into a tug of war.
Three doesn’t work well for tug of war, so their mom, who had been sitting near them on the shoreline, jumped in, helping the youngest on his side of the battle.
Their tug of war tugged at my heart.
This mom on the beach was me. Is me. I am her. The future her. These boys at the lake today reminded me of my three sons who were young boys playing similar games on the same beach just a few years ago while I watched diligently – ensuring safety, playing referee, dispensing sunscreen, handing out freeze pops.
Their energy was and is invigorating. Their creativity inspiring. Especially in this era of electronic everything, I am glad kids can still play the old fashioned way on a summer day at the lake by taking something as simple as a beach towel and making it be whatever they imagine it to be.
And I’m glad I got to sit on the sidelines today and witness it happen.