“My escape is to just get in a boat and disappear on the water. ” Carl Hiaasen
Boys of all ages and shapes love the freedom and excitement of a boat ride on a full lake in May. There is a freedom on the water. Hair blowing, sunglasses on, the smell of gasoline…all is well at the beginning of summer.
Just a couple of months after my son turned 16, he and a school friend were out on the upper Lake Hartwell in our little blue skiff enjoying those first days of summer break. Of course, these radiant waters, like the sirens to the Greek sailors of yore, were calling my teen boys to test the parameters of the new Yamaha engine we had just installed. They had to make and crest waves. They had to turn donuts. And, they had to push the ability of the small craft to stay afloat amidst a variety of maneuvers mixed with speed and wind. Ultimately, what happened next was quite predictable. They flipped the boat and swamped all the contents. Paddles and jackets and half consumed water bottles could be seen floating along with a plastic bag and briefly, a hat. Although stunned, the big boys weren’t injured and were able to right the small boat and return home.
As the adrenaline wore off, the teens began to work through all the things that were in the boat just minutes before it went asunder. There were water bottles, food packages, fishing poles and tackle, sunglasses, wallets, and cell phones.
“Oh no! My wallet was in my pocket!” was the gasp I heard. “All the gift cards I got from my birthday were in the wallet.”
“Did you have cash in there?” his dad inquired.
“Maybe $5 – $10 bucks,” was the assessment.
For months, stories were told of the perilous incident. Various theories surfaced of how the boat flipped, where it happened, and why the boys were able to right the craft. Everybody was profoundly grateful that the boys were safe and that the whole business only amounted to some lost items. We were thankful God had spared them from their own bad judgments.
And…just as quickly as that fantastic summer-freedom feeling came, it went. Like the release of water from Hartwell Dam on a sweltering August day, those carefree times were gone. Summers, Christmases, proms and graduations whirled by in a fast current of ceaseless days.
Then, on a recent December afternoon, a package arrived at our non lake house. The padded manila envelope was addressed to my oldest, now almost 22. Home for the holiday, he found the package and opened it.
“Ya’ll come here and see this!” was the call. The family gathered ’round our kitchen counter while he emptied the contents onto the flat surface.
What took place next was truly astonishing. Carefully, and with great curiosity, my son opened a flat and dingy rectangular object. We all stood there gazing, and upon closer inspection, realized what it was!! A smile of recognition came to my boy’s lips.
“This is my wallet!” he blasted. “This is the wallet I lost when we flipped the skiff.”
Sure enough! It was the wallet of a 16 year old boy, a perfect time capsule of a by-gone era. The wallet, lost by a boy, was now opened by a man! The case itself was constructed of grey duct tape. The contents, although water battered, were undisturbed: gift cards, a driver’s license and a library card. The remnants of a heavily water tattered $5 and $1 bill were displayed along with a few tarnished coins. And, there was a note. The note told of how the young finder had seen the wallet near the boat ramp on GA 123 in Toccoa, GA. She collected the wallet and intended to return it to its owner, but, as often happens, time got the better deal and it ended up in the top drawer of a dresser. The writer of the note, finding the wallet one morning and realizing it had not been returned, mailed it to my son along with a little sticky note affixed inside: “Looks like you had a $1 and a $5 in the wallet — Thought I would replace that for you. Cherish the memory!”
I was at a loss for words, which is unusual! What a kind and generous thing to do, return a water-logged, trashed duct-taped wallet to a kid you will likely never meet!!
While my son was contemplating the gift cards, I was struck by the generosity of a person I will never be able to thank! A person who took the time to be kind! That can be a rare thing. But, people are good! Lake people are good and I will cherish the memory.