I tell people that the one thing I’m afraid of is drowning. Five-year-old me played on the wet sand without paying attention. The green plastic bucket I was holding was the only thing on my mind. I was trying to scoop sand into the bucket with it’s white child-sized shovel when the wave came.
My parents were somewhere near, though I can’t remember where. I was never far from their sight, so I should have known it would be ok, but five-year-old me didn’t reason. I only registered fear and panic when the wave came up from behind and knocked me over.
I spun upside-down for what seemed to be several minutes, blinded by water and sand and unable to distinguish up from down. I kicked my tiny legs and only seemed to hit the sandy bottom harder. I was swimming in the wrong direction and my treasured bucket was no longer in my hand. Where was my shovel? No, that was gone too. A flash, and I wondered where my brother was in all of this? He was supposed to look after me.
Large hands pulled my out of the water as I spluttered and tried to rub my eyes. I felt a sharp pat on my back as I coughed up salty sea water. Dad held me and was cooing something in my ear to calm me. I was blinded with the sting of salt and unwilling to open my eyes too soon. Breathing normally, I was placed back on the beach next to what remained of my sand castle and two feet away, my brother sat playing.
When I look back on this memory, it’s clear that I was never in any real danger. I know now that my parents never let me out of their sight. Both parents had been standing only a few feet away with their protective eyes on both of us. I also didn’t “swim” as I once thought. I was flipped, yes, but all I did was wave my arms around until my Dad fished me out. The whole incident only lasted a few seconds, but in my mind, I was out there flailing for three or four minutes, gasping my last. It makes me think about perspective. How we see things when we’re little and how scale can have an influence on how we remember things. I’m still not a fan of water, but that it is more rational now. It’s a consequence of being a horrible swimmer with poor eyesight.