Summer nostalgia

Hot summer afternoons at the swimming hole is where I learned that fear is just a feeling and feelings can be changed, even conquered.

It is a hot day for northern BC. The mercury is supposed to stop rising at 29 degrees Celsius. That’s 84 degrees Fahrenheit for those of you south of the border.

I know not everyone considers that hot, but here in the north, it’s hot. We don’t often break 30 degrees in the summer and the forecast this week is for hot and hotter.

We Canadians LOVE to talk about the weather and here in the north, we are inexplicably proud when we say, “Sure it’s -40, but it’s a dry cold.”

The same is true when it’s hot. It’s a dry heat. We’re a long way from water so the humidity is low. Today the skies are mostly clear with just the slightest haze from the wild fires that are still ravaging the southern parts of our province.

Days like this make me nostalgic which is why I’m sitting outside in the shade instead of enjoying the coolness of the basement. I want to be where I can hear the breeze rustle the poplar leaves and the buzz of bluebottle flies and the occasional wasp. I want to sit undisturbed and think about the things I loved and miss about my childhood.

I miss homemade popsicles that melted slowly because Mom put jello in the mix. I miss picking pineapple weed flowers for peas and caragana pods for beans and “cooking” them up in the kitchen of our playhouse. I miss bicycle rides around the neighbourhood which took all afternoon because it was northern Alberta where the roads are mostly perfectly straight, intersecting every mile, a 4 mile round trip, unless we went over the big hill which was slightly terrifying because there were no hand brakes on our bikes just the kind where you pushed the pedals backward to brake, or dragged the toes of your shoes (not a popular method with our Mom).

But my all time favourite summer activity was lying in the shade of the trees in our yard and reading; traveling through time and space, across dimensions and back in history. I had grand adventures in my mind until my little sister or my brothers had finally convinced Mom and Dad that it was too hot and we should go swimming.

Going swimming never meant going to the public pool in town with it’s clear, blue, chlorinated water. No. We would pile into the back seat of the old pickup, or sometimes into the box of the truck (I know, I know, it was dangerous, but not as dangerous as you think and besides that was part of the fun of it. Any misbehaving and we had to move inside the truck. I won’t tell you that depending on the vintage of the truck, we did that by climbing through the small, sliding window in the back.). Dad would drive slowly down to the creek where the road curved and two enormous culverts went under the gravel to let the water flow through. Years of spring run-off had hollowed out a big hole which never dried up in the summer. The edges were shallow, but there was a deep part right in front of the mouth of the culverts. I can’t tell you how deep because I only ever worked up the courage to dangle from the lip of the culvert. I could never quite convince myself to let go.

If you walked around the swimming hole on the rocks, you could climb into the culvert and walk down it, splashing in the small stream of water that flowed through it. I don’t know how big those culverts were. I know they look smaller now, but they’re probably 12 or 14 feet across and maybe 60 feet long. Plenty big enough to make the best echoes when you stood at the mouth and shouted down it’s length.

The water was warm and if you stayed in one spot for too long, you’d come out with big, black leeches clinging to your feet or legs. Easily taken care of because one of the things that always went into the bag with the towels was a salt shaker.

Mom would go in the water, but mostly it was Dad who would coax us into getting on his back or shoulders to go into the deeper part. He’d walk part way out into the pool and then without warning he’d sink like a stone as if the bottom had dropped out from beneath his feet. It scared the bejeezus out of me every single time. And yet, I kept doing it.

It’s one of the memories I look back on when I’m afraid and I need to remind myself that fear is just a feeling. I can be afraid and still do things.

We just put up a zip line in the yard for our grandkids. Our middle Little wanted to try but said he was too afraid. I told him it was ok to feel afraid and when he was ready I would help him. He went home that day without trying, but he was back the next day having made up his mind that he was ready to try. We started with my arm around him walking beside so he didn’t go too fast and he made darn sure I was sticking close to him. When he stopped sliding along the cable, he looked up at me with the biggest, proudest smile and said, “Again Grandma!”

So we went again. And again. And again.

He made dozens of trips down the zip line, each time with a little less support from me until I was giving him a push down the cable fast enough that he made it all the way to the end and could push himself back off the end pole.

I told him how proud I was that even though he was afraid, he still tried. It wasn’t really that hard to build his confidence, it just took a bit of time and patience and some encouraging words.

This isn’t the first time Little B has let me help him with something that scared him. He lets me help because he trusts me, he knows I’m right there with him if something goes wrong.

I knew that about my Dad too, that he would never let anything bad happen to me and so even though he scared me, I learned that sometimes feeling scared is just that…a feeling, not something we can control, but something that we can change.

Sometimes all we need is a little support and some well-placed words to give us the courage to try; once we try we take away the power fear has and we can try again, and again…

until we’re flying!

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