Jumping Off the Putt Putt
It seems so long ago already, but it was in early August the family was sitting on the Peninsula Putt Putt, anchored over in the small bay at Horseshoe Island in Door County. The weather was perfect for our floating picnic as the skies were a brilliant, crisp blue with just a few cotton-ball like white clouds floating lazily here and there. When we first arrived at the little island in the waters of Green Bay, there was one, maybe two boats anchored, the occupants sitting back in the sun, laying out on the top deck and otherwise just enjoying the marvelous summer day.
We set anchor, watched for any drift to the rocky shore, and when we seemed solid in our location, the few pool toys on board came out, the vintage brass swim ladder was secured on the transom, and the kids embarked on their maiden leaps from the Putt Putt’s stern and into the slightly chilly northern waters of Green Bay. Birdy climbed up onto and across the stern first, her little orange, ruffly bathing suit only slightly visible from the greenish brown life vest strapped to her. Her long, gangly legs bent at the knees and then she sprung a great distance into the water. There was a splash quickly followed by a little shriek from the shock of the cool water and then furious doggy paddling and leg kicking as she tried to recreate all of the techniques she’s learned from swim lessons at Mrs. Leonard’s house.
As Birdy paddled closer to the Putt Putt, Sam, the resident daredevil, the fearless 4-year-old, climbed up onto the stern, stepped down onto the swim ladder and then …. Stood there. His blonde hairs were glowing, fluttering in the tiny little breeze, his suntanned belly and back were covered with lotion and a blue life vest. He was wearing swim trunks – a rather small victory for parents of a kid who loves nakedness – and he gripped the two curved bars of the swim ladder, Birdy stopped her shrieking and furious dog paddling to coax Sam to make the leap, and Sam bent at the knees like was going to, then stood up straight, coiled up again this time only tighter, his knees bent even more. Sam was about to take his hands off the ladder rails and do it, but then stood up, sat his butt down on the ladder’s little platform and proceeding to just flop into the water. Of course he shrieked, flailed, doggy paneled and had the overall look that a school of sharks was chasing him. He reached the ladder, pulled himself up and acted as if he just invented cliff diving in Jamaica.
“What the hell was that, Sam?” I said smartly, “do you slip or something?” Birdy soon piled on with “yeah, Sam, jump next time.” I felt a little bad about it, but the little blonde kid was acting like he just landed on the moon instead of sitting in the lake. Sam promptly got up, we cheered him on, Birdy paddled away from the boat some to give her brother room, and Sam almost jumped. Almost. But again, he plopped down and just kind of slid into the water, flailed shrieked and then climbed the ladder and into the Putt Putt. Birdy came in too.
More boats were anchoring in the relatively small space of Horseshoe Bay, but there was plenty of room for jumping off the boat, and Birdy did just that after eating a couple of crackers and drinking some ice cold water. Sam went to go and cross the stern to the ladder, but he had that “look” on his face. It wasn’t fear, it was something much worse being anchored on a boat with no bathroom, two miles or so away from the nearly potty. Liz saw it immediately. “Sam, you have to go potty?”
Sam shook his head “no.” Liz asked again, and Sam repeated the side-to-side head shake. The third time Liz asked, Sam must have just hit critical mass because he immediately should “YESSSSHHHH!” and proceeded to hop up and down in what just turned into a full-blown bathroom emergency. I looked for on-board solutions, there were none. Liz had the quick thought to tell Sam to jump into the water and he could go potty in the water. “We all do it,” I added, trying to reaffirm that it’s ok to pee your pants as long as your pants are already wet.
Sam raced to the Putt Putt’s stern, climbed up and over to the pool ladder, stood on the platform briefly. We all encouraged him to jump in and then go pee. Everything will be alright then. Sam stood around looking at us, the water and the seven or eight other boats anchored in the little horseshoe-shaped bay, back at us, then down at the water. He was thinking about it. He knew he had to, and he wanted to, it was just a matter of time and he would make his first leap into Lake Michigan off the boat and also reset the alarm on the potty emergency.
Except, that’s not what happened.
Instead, Sam standing there on the small swim ladder platform, the just-past-noon sun brightly shiny down upon him, the adults all uniformly cheering him on to jump in, getting the attention of all the other boaters, Sam stood there, pulled his swim trunks to his ankles and proudly peed, hands-free no less, into Lake Michigan. At first, I was confused pretty much thinking “is he really doing that?” and then started laughing rather hysterically when I hear Birdy’s tiny voice over the potty noises yell “Sam! Sam! You’re peeing too close to me!” It’s not like she was telling him not to go pee into the water, but just do it somewhere else. I lost it. I laughed to the point of tears and nearly not being able to breathe.
With the full-blown bathroom emergency over in a rather public fashion, Sam pulled his swim trunks back up, turned around with a big smile and all was pretty much right and perfect in his little world again. “Nice job, Sam!” I yelled to him as I still wiped away tears. “You feel better now and ready to jump in?” Everyone else was pretty much in shock, I believe.
“EEEEEEYYYEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSHHHH!” he shouted emphatically. My blonde goofball then turned around, stood on the ladder platform and leapt into his remaining pee and the waters of Green Bay. Dammit if I don’t love my Lil Bubba.
Bird and Sam were reunited in the water, they each took turns climbing up the swim ladder, turning around and jumping back in. Some little floaty rings were tossed in to the water to add some fun, and Sam climbed into the boat when he remembered he brought his new swim goggles along. Liz grabbed them from her bag, put them on Sam’s tanned little head, and he stammered to the ladder again. He stood there a moment, Birdy in the water giving him instructions on what to do when he jumps in wearing his goggles, mainly to look at fish swimming nearby and stuff. Sam standing there looking around, looking back at us in the boat, goggles already fogged, leapt like a big ol’ bullfrog into the water towards Birdy. He briefly went under but the life vest popped him right back above the surface like a giant cork.
“Sam! Sam! Did you see any fish? What did you see?” Birdy called to him loudly even though he wasn’t more than a foot away from her.
“Nothing!” Sam answered.
“What? Why not?” Birdy asked.
“I closed my eyes,” Sam said.
And with that, the brother and sister duo swam back to the boat, climbed up and jumped off again, repeatedly. Liz got into the water now and again, while I stayed in the boat up toward the controls, leaning against the starboard gunnel with my legs stretched and feet resting on the port side front passenger seat. It was the perfect vantage point and distance from the stern to quietly watch my beautiful family – the family I could never have dreamed of, the family that taught me what unshakable love and commitment means, the family I never even planned on having but they somehow how found me in this universe – enjoy just another sunny day on just another old boat in Door County. What a beautiful, magical, funny world we live in.
Larry is a content marketing professional, an experienced copywriter, avid fisherman, amateur sailor, teller of kinda funny jokes, pancake connoisseur and an overall OK guy who founded Sawfish Online.