Changing of the Tides
by Kristen Peterson
The sun beat down on the back of my neck. A stray lock of hair fell from my ponytail across my forehead, stinging my eyes with sweat. The back of my thighs stuck to the white vinyl upholstery of the boat, as I sat, too hot to move. When I couldnt take the sweltering heat any longer, I dove into the water, resurfacing as a new person.
It was August of 1990, and I was in the middle of a summertime raft-up on the rivers of the Bay, where families and neighbors gathered together on their boats on Sundays. This afternoon found us at Harness Creek off the South River.
From the vantage point of the water, I looked up at the four boats. Jimmy Buffet played in the background. The people still on board socialized, hopping from boat to boat. The women had ended up on one boat, talking and laughing as they drank Diet Cokes or margaritas. The men gathered on another boat down the line talking shop: work, sports and boat engines. Theyd bring chilled beer cans out of the cooler dripping with condensation and pop them open with a satisfying crack.
The boats had arrived intermittently earlier in the afternoon, each new addition throwing a rope to the boat before them. Like logs roped together into a raft, the boats had become connected as one, an island bobbing on the river.
My sisters, Laura and Maggie, had already jumped in to start off an afternoon of swimming, playing and floating on the river. After tiring of games of Marco Polo, we moved on to a favorite rope swing of the creek. Swimming up on shore to the small spot of beach at the edge of the woods, we took turns, grudgingly, running through the sand to leap and be suspended in the air, landing in the water in a fabulous display of the perfect cannonball.
The day stretched on; the only care was the occasional jellyfish sting, which was remedied with meat tenderizer and a kiss. Laura, Maggie and I returned to the boats only to show the adults our extraordinarily pruned fingers and to demand a sandwich and a soda for our ravenous stomachs.
As the sun sank, we stayed on to watch the sunset, trying to squeeze every last drop from the summer weekend. Only when the end of the day could be put off no longer did we accept the inevitable, and then, one by one, the boats untied and pushed off. We trudged home to get ready for the week ahead.
Fourteen years later, I remember this day with special fondness as I sun with my sisters on the lone boat anchored in Harness Creek. We are drinking our own margaritas as we apply suntan lotion and consider how our paths are taking us in different directions to places far away from Chesapeake Bay.
Im not the only one feeling nostalgia for the Sunday raft-ups that embodied the lazy days of summer and created a party on an island of boats in the middle of a river for boating comrades.
As my youngest sister cranks the boat into gear and we head home to the journeys that await us, I can almost hear the songs of Jimmy Buffet in the background, the beer cans cracking open and the giggles of the kids we were.
Kristen Peterson of Annapolis is heading to graduate school in Ireland this fall to study journalism.