Yesterday was a beautiful day here in Maine: warm sun, bright blue skies, perfect breeze. After spending a few hours watching my daughter bob for plastic rings at the pool, reality beckoned. It was time for my son to nap and for me to make the dreaded trip to the grocery store.
To bring or not to bring my daughter? My parents were taking two of my sisters and one of my brothers-in-law -- in town for the 4th of July holiday -- out on their boat for a little afternoon ride. I could either let them enjoy a leisurely cruise, or I could impose some 4-year-old energy on that 30-foot vessel. The thought of a child-free grocery shopping exercise was too much to resist, and I went with option B. One change of clothes and application of life vest later, my daughter was boat bound.
Right around the time I headed off to the store, the skies started to darken and a light rain began to fall. I considered going back to my parents' house to get her, debating whether they'd still go out on the boat and not wanting to now impose land-locked babysitting into their afternoon. But yet again, the lure of a solo Shaw's mission was too appealing, and I figured they'd call me if they decided not to go out. And that maybe the storm would pass, they'd have a great time out on the ocean, and I would have wasted a trip -- and peaceful hour -- for nothing.
Ultimately, both eventualities I was picturing played out. Sort of. The storm didn't ever really pass, but my family still went out on the boat.
You see, the storm was one of those fluke-y things like you see in the tropics. It was basically just an isolated rain shower. So when the isolated rain shower ended, my family considered itself good to go and hopped aboard.
But since we're in Maine and not Puerto Rico, the isolated shower had to adopt a New England flair. It did that by spawning a chain of multiple "isolated" showers that lulled those of us down on the ground into a false sense of security. It made us believe that with every break of sun and let-up in rain, the weather was on the upswing for good. That storm was a real jerk.
When I arrived at Shaw's, isolated rain shower #1 was tapering off. A mile away from me, my family was packing into the car to head down to the marina. When I left Shaw's, isolated rain shower #2 was brewing. The clouds were puffy and darkening, and Al Roker was walking down the street waving his arms over his head and putting on his foul-weather gear.
When Al dons his raincoat and hood, you know things are about to get serious. So I texted one of my sisters with what in my head was a dire warning but from my fingers was meant to be a more casual alert. (I'm notorious for over-worrying and I didn't really want to play into that stereotype.)
"Hey, what's up!? Things here are just wonderful! I hope you too are enjoying a lovely afternoon off the coast of Maine. Just wanted to let you know that foreboding clouds are gathering off to the west. They appear to be heading due east. Be advised. Also, remember that my first born and only daughter is on that boat and I don't want her physically or emotionally scarred by what is sure to be an epic storm about to hit dad's boat. Cheers!"
I think I played that well, don't you?
In response, my sister wrote:
"Storm clouds? What storm clouds?!? It's beautiful here! We're cannon-balling off the side of the boat. Weeeeeeee!!!!"
So I went home and did a couple shots to calm my nerves. Then I woke my son up and showed him how to do a prayer vigil.
Just as we were lighting the last Virgin Mary candle, the skies turned black and the winds started to howl. A light ran started pattering on the roof. Then, out of nowhere, the loudest thunderclap I've ever heard boomed in the sky and reached down to strangle my heart.
I left my son in charge of the incense and scrambled for my phone. I let rip another casually inquisitive text to my sister.
"Hi! So, it appears the apocalypse has come early. I have about 5 minutes left to live. Just wanted to spend one of them checking in on your progress towards land. How is my daughter and can you tell her I love her in English and Spanish?"
"Things not good here anymore. Headed back."
With that, I was wailing on my knees at the faux-wall of our picket fence. I decided to take a break in those proceedings to place an actual call to the boat. My sister answered and said:
"Hey. Can't really talk. Lots of rain."
Here's why this was all so distrubing to me. I am a world-class worrier. If there was an Olympics for worrying, I'd be the Michael Phelps of it, minus the schilling for Subway (those places smell W.E.I.R.D.) I worry about things most people didn't know could prompt a worry. I read every email about three times before sending to make sure it's addressed to the right people. Tax returns give me heart palpitations, as I see the eventual audit and jail time in my mind's eye. Traveling is just a parade of horribles, with one worry (how long will the security line be?) after another (will the plane be on time? what zone do I board in? will it be a chatty crowd? is my iPod sufficiently charged? how is Al Qaeda doing these days with its underwear bombs?) lined up as if mocking me.
Now that the storm was in full force, with bright flashes of lightning, more and more thunder, and a torrential downpour, I couldn't stop picturing the scene on my father's boat. I saw the pivotal scene from Forrest Gump -- when Captain Dan scales the rigging to have it out with God and taunts him with "You call this a storm?!?" -- and figured that was essentially how it looked on my dad's Grady White. My daughter -- who can't sleep if there's a moth in her room -- must have been scared out of her mind. And wet. And cold. And wanting me. Instead, she was on a boat captained by my father, who I can reliably say was probably not a rapt student during boat captaining school. Nothing about those images screamed "no cause for concern."
What's more, I'm now the person who has had the last contact with someone on that boat. I could just see myself on the Investigation Discovery or Dateline retrospective of those fateful 45 minutes. Yes, once I let my mind start worrying, it is a slippery and drastic slope straight to outright horrible tragedy. It's like my brain is on speed -- when it comes to worrying, it's impossible to put it in slow gear.
By this time, I'd left my impromptu wailing wall and returned to my bedroom, which overlooks the street. My son and I sat in meditation at our window. I said the roasary on my daughter's pink princess necklace while my son ate his fist (one of us was entirely nonplussed about the circumstances of the post-nap afternoon).
When what to our wondering eyes should appear but my mother's car pulling into our driveway. I grabbed a towel, raced downstairs, and hurried down the driveway in the continuing rain. Out of the car tumbled one of my sisters, my mother and...my daughter. They were all sopping wet but entirely safe and sound. My daughter took one look at me and burst into tears, and it was all I could do to keep myself from doing the same. We were both very relieved. And perhaps overly dramatic. Whatever.
In my family's retelling of the story, it does sound like it was quite a scene on that boat. Visibility was awful, the lightning strikes were huge, and the wave swells were pushing that little boat around. Everyone aboard later admitted to being pretty scared.
For my daughter, it was nothing a change of clothes and a lollipop couldn't cure, and I found a glass of wine to have a similar palliative effect. All's well that ends well, etc.
Until the next worry strikes.
Perhaps the most telling aspect of this story is that my husband was oblivious to even the idea that our daughter could have been in some form of discomfort, much less peril. He knew she was out on the boat during the storm, but he was running errands at the time. He later admitted that he was so preoccupied about the state of his car that he didn't even think about how our daughter was faring. (The state of his car was, in a word, "drenched," as he'd forgotten to close the windows during passing shower #1.)
I've drawn my own conclusions from that confession of his. I'll let you draw yours. (Permissible conclusions do not include, however, "wow, he's got a lot to teach the rest of us about how to care for our car.")