I was alone. A sultry day in July, the sun was blazing, the temperature in the nineties. A walk on the beach sounded like a great escape. Sneaking away from my family was no big deal.
Jumping into the soaring waves was refreshing, revitalizing, invigorating. I waited for the next wave, then the next. Giggling at the cool spray that tickled my skin. The heat no longer bothered me after each successive splash of cold water coated my arms and legs. Suddenly, I found myself overcome by a giant wave. Unexpected. Scary. Gasping for air and flailing my arms I couldn’t stop the pull of this force of nature.
Would someone see me and come to my rescue? I hadn’t noticed a lifeguard. Who thinks about that when there’s so much fun to be had. I tried to drag myself out of the frothy water, onto the safety of the beach, but my strength was fading fast. The undertow pulled me farther and farther away from shore.
Desperate. Frightened that I would drown, I fought the waves with all my might, dragging myself back. Finally, I managed to stand and slog my way through the shallows to shore.
I was eight years old.
Since that day, I have told this story hundreds of times. I promised myself I would never take the power of nature for granted ever again. I was pretty tall for my age and was a good swimmer, but it didn’t make a difference. I was at the mercy of the tides. Since then, I never go into the ocean when the waves are bigger than me.
My family had a cottage just up the street, in Rockaway Beach, Queens, New York. The experience put a damper on my love of the ocean. The almost-drowning is what I think of whenever I see a gigantic wave today.
I spent many a summer at Jones Beach watching my own kids jump in and out of the waves. I didn’t want to stop their fun or diminish their pleasure, but I was ready at a moment’s notice to leap to the rescue if one of my kids needed me.
Nature is beautiful but it’s also untameable. Wild. Have a safe summer.
Gail Ingis Claus is an author, artist/painter and interior designer. Her upcoming romance The Unforgettable Miss Baldwin will be released in the fall of 2018. Her current historical romance, Indigo Sky can be purchased on amazon.