Sunday, June 13, 2021

Life & Style

In a Shoreline Minute

I’m a wimp when it comes to the cold. I’m the annoying person in the office with a sweater on my shoulders and a wool blanket on my lap in July. I hate air conditioning unless there’s a dew point over 75 and a temperature over 95.

ÀSo, when my mom suggests we take a dip in the lake near her house and I feel that slightly cold breeze coming off the water, I beg off. We have a cup of coffee and chat instead. Later that afternoon the breeze calms and the air temperature creeps upward. We change into bathing suits, grab tubes, and ease into the drink.

This is one of the joys of summer. I love to lay back on a tube, my face in the sun, soaking up the Vitamin D. Dragonflies swoop and land on us. One perches on my knee and I marvel over its diaphanous green wings.

It’s not cold anymore. It’s warm and almost cozy, like the sunshine is wrapping itself around me. I’m lulled into a semi-sleep.

Then I hear it. A thin voice saying...what? Did I hear the word help?

There are kids in the lake, kids all over the place. Dozens of them it seems. Kids on floats, kids not on floats. Kids splashing around and yelling and creating large arcs of shimmering water as they splash each other and laugh wildly.

I hear it again. There’s a kid without a float way out and he’s on his back saying “help.” Is he playing around or is he serious? No one is reacting. “Do you need help or are you messing around?” I shout to him.

Still on his back. “Help,” he says. I don’t even think he’s heard me.

Just like that, everything is different. I paddle furiously on my tube. “I’m coming out! Just hang on, okay?”

No direct answer. Just another “help.” Mom asks if she should come, too, and I say no I have it and everyone else as far as I know is just going about their business and no one is coming for this kid. Do they even know what’s happening?

I get to him and he looks to be about 14. He’s still paddling on his back. I tell him to stop paddling and to put his arm on the tube. He doesn’t stop paddling and he doesn’t put his arm on the tube, so I grab his arm saying, “On the tube. Yes, like that. Now take a breather. You’re okay.”

He’s now hanging on the tube looking a bit stunned and taking huffing breaths. “I’m sorry. I panicked,” he says.

“It’s okay. It happens,” I tell him.

And it does. We’ve all been there in one way or another.

“I was further out than I realized,” he admits.

Yes, I can relate to that one, too.

A second kid swims up from even further out and I say, “You, too. Arm on the other side of the tube. Take a rest.” He puts his arm on the tube and releases a single heavy whoosh of breath. Soon both kids are breathing normally.

I look toward shore and everyone is watching. No one else has come out. They’ve all just been watching.

We paddle in, the tube half submerged with the weight of three people. When we all get close to land, the kids tell me that they can swim in the rest of the way themselves.

“Holler if you need me, okay? I’m right here,” I say. I don’t take my eyes off them until they’re on terra firma.

Does anyone from their group meet them with a float? No.

I still can’t get it out of my mind. What if I hadn’t wimped out earlier? What if I’d gone swimming then instead of later? Would anyone have heard that kid? If so, would anyone have taken him seriously and gone out to him?

There’s a famous song that talks about how everything can change in a New York minute. Well, everything can change in a shoreline minute. I’m glad I was there when it did.

Juliana Gribbins is a writer who believes that absurdity is the spice of life. Her book Date Expectations is winner of the 2016 IPPY silver medal for humor. Write to her at Read more of her columns at

Juliana Gribbins is the Columnist for Zip06. Email Juliana at .

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