We had arrived early (before the extended family) to allow the kids to swim a bit before the festivities began....Dallas was 12 years old at the time and was a good swimmer. He liked to go out beyond the breaking waves and just float. He knew the rule about constantly checking your position against our towels and chairs to avoid being taken by the current down the shoreline and he was very good at following this rule....but still, I watched him like a hawk, ever ready to give out my very loud whistle to get his attention if I noticed him drifting. We'd almost lost Dallas when he was two in a rip tide that took him and his Aunt Cindy under the water and I'd never fully gotten over that experience (jumping waves with Dallas, they both had their feet taken out from under them and were being towed out - Cindy came up screaming for help as Dallas was still underwater and she was losing her grip on his hand....as his hat floated out to sea, I grabbed his arm and helped her pull him free).
And now, on this day of food and music ten years later, there were hundreds of people on the beach; you sat on a towel at your own risk because the partiers that surrounded you were more likely to step on you then make it safely around you. It was difficult to keep an eye on Dallas as folks were constantly shifting in and out of my line of sight......but all was well until David walked with Nikki to meet her friend in the parking lot about an hour before Kirk went on stage, leaving me and three year old Hunter there on the beach alone and Dallas out beyond the waves.
I had taken my eyes off Dallas to say goodbye to David and Nikki, and when I turned to check on Dallas, I realized that I could no longer see him; I stood up, taking Hunter's hand and began to move a bit this way and a bit that way trying to see through people and spot my son out there in the water. I couldn't leave our spot because if Dallas had drifted down and gotten out of the water to walk back to us, he might not spot our things on the crowded beach (I can't adequately describe the crowds that day - it was something I'd never seen before and will run from if I ever see it again!). Suddenly, Hunter's hand slipped out of mine and I looked down to take it back and he was gone.
Already panicked over what may have happened to Dallas, I began to call for Hunter, again going only a few feet from our things so that both boys could find me...you know the old rule...when lost stay put? A good three minutes passed during which my eyes were filled with tears, my throat constricted with panic and my heart beating out of my chest. Had I lost both my boys in less then ten minutes?
Just as I was ready to scream, I caught a glimpse of my three year old turning in circles about four feet from me - there were so many people that after stepping away from me for a second, he couldn't make his way back. I grabbed him up and after making our way back to our things, set him back down and clutched his hand as tightly as I could and began to scan the waters for Dallas again.
After what seemed like an hour, but was in reality only about 20 minutes, David and Nikki returned with her friend and after I explained that I couldn't find Dallas, David began to walk the beach in the direction of the current.....and found Dallas walking back to us with his feet in the water.
He had been carried by the current a good distance down the beach and when he realized what had happened had come out and began to walk against the current, remembering that I had placed our things as close to the water as possible....he had been walking for at least ten minutes according to him.
We immediately packed up our things and headed to the relative safety of the pavilion, using our relationship with my brother to get to the area where the bands were set up to wait their turns to play. By that point, I had had enough of the crowd and was further upset by the fact that during all the panic, I had lost a watch valuable not only in currency but in sentimental ways.
While Kirk's band was playing, we found a place beside the stage to sit with our extended family and enjoy the music.....In front of where we stood, the children had found a seat on something...I think it was an empty box that had held band gear. As the music began, I could see Dallas and Hunter with their cousin Skye and Hunter's best friend Bridgette ...arms around each other, swaying to the sound of pipe and fiddle and Kirk's lyrics and I sighed, finally able to let the hectic panic filled afternoon pass away.
I'm grateful for that photograph; not only because of the memory of the peace that I felt at knowing the children were not only safe, but had already forgotten the panic filled moments we had just survived. They were living in that moment only - enjoying each others company and good music!
I'm also grateful for a snapshot of a time quickly passing - Dallas is all grown up and turning 22 next month, Skye and Bridgette are 13 and Hunter will catch up to them in December. The times they get to spend together today are rare...........
And I'm grateful to be able to see Hunter....like Dallas....enjoying the pleasure of being the "big" cousin and all that comes with that....like having your words listened to so raptly......!