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Mother-daughter kayaking adventure ends without tippage

My only child, Emily, and I hadn’t set eyes on one another since last Christmas, save for occasional texts and posts. Clicking “like” and “love” emojis is a lonely stretch from face-to-face conversation and hugs.

After eight months of restrictions, Emily asked whether I would feel comfortable with her coming down from Portland for a visit. She assured me she’d been careful. Was she kidding? After seeing every friend and cohort post pictures of jolly times with kids and grandkids near and far, and me clucking my COVID-policing tongue in response, I said, absolutely!

Emily arrived Sunday bearing smoked salmon, chevre, capers and tomatoes for cheeseboard snacks, and an instant pot for concocting savory chicken coconut curry.

She loves to cook, and I love that she loves it. We began our time together by picking our way through two large boxes of vintage women’s clothes I’d just bought from a friend, John, for Em to sell. She’d temporarily lost her jobs in the entertainment industry and had launched a couple of new ventures to take up the slack. We gushed over one 1940s-’60s creation after another, marveling at the quality fabrics and craftsmanship.

Next day, since the valley returned us to summertime temps without mercy, we escaped to Lake of the Woods. Using Em’s enthusiasm as a propeller, we beelined for an activity I’d put off for too long. The grounds stood hushed — blessedly quiet with summer throngs back to work and school (such as it is).

The man behind the boat rental counter said he’d seen far more canoes tip than kayaks, so a tandem kayak filled the bill. When I asked if there was anything special to know about piloting the craft, Emily chuckled at me in true daughter form, and the young man said, “No, they won’t hurt you.” Ha ha.

Then he proceeded to hand me two papers, one two-sided filled with warnings about what to do should you tip, caution about heading into open water, hypothermia and woman-eating sharks (nope). He asked me to check them all off and sign. I didn’t know a blasted thing about kayak know-how or how I would react after a tippage if trout began nibbling my toes. I mean, there is a knack to everything new, right? Emily just smiled like she was an old lake pilot with miles of paddling experience under her flotation device.

We hadn’t come dressed for water. I had on jeans and a T-shirt with tennis shoes and socks. It was a sweet 20 degrees cooler there. The helpful employee said the best way to enter the watercraft was to sit on the dock and slide off (pause for mental picture). I made it OK. So far, so dry. But because of concern about jiggling the kayak, I failed to fasten the life vest before entering. The belt was cinched down for the size of a trout. Once adjusted, I felt more secure. Emily powered us from behind, and I was to steer.

First thing I noticed was wet knees. With each stroke, a quart of water rolled down the paddle onto my jeans. Likely my form was off. No matter, the sun felt warm. We sailed for the water lilies and marshy area, staying fairly close to shore because we only had an hour and I was steering.

It didn’t take long for me to go overboard for kayaking. I mean I liked it. What’s not to love about gliding fairly effortlessly close to the water — becoming one with the lake? I laid back and listened to soft water pats against the boat when we stopped. The best part was enjoying the moment with Emily.

Now, removing one’s self from a kayak, which is sitting a couple feet below the dock, is a different exercise entirely. I can only imagine the kind of memory I left behind for Em. The boat ramp might have been a better idea. However, I’m solidly hooked.

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer. Reach her at pcdover@hotmail.com.