Every year, my family – mom, dad, and all five children – go to my grandfather’s cottage on Lake Huron. And every year, the process is the same: two days of packing suitcases, yelling from my mother about how we’re taking too long to pack, my dad stuffing the car full of junk we might need while we’re there (items like streamers – maybe somebody has a birthday… Just pack it!) , my dad putting the necessary items in the car, my dad taking out the excessive amounts of junk so the necessary items can fit, waking up at 6 AM on Friday morning to embark on the twelve our road trip, jamming some of the junk that my dad took out into my backpack at 6:05, everyone masking their exhausted face with a fake smile because my mom insists that every moment of a vacation must be fun, turning around 20 minutes into the drive because I forgot to pack socks, and then my mom yelling because I wasted 40 minutes. In short, it’s a haul.
And yet, this year’s haul is already over – I’m already back home after the exhausting drive back. Now, I’m sitting at my desk thinking about all the memories I’ve created over the week. But my favorite memory, and sure to never leave me, is the classic family story: one of hilarity and destruction.
Between my cousins’ family and mine, there were 18 people staying in our cottage. It was jam packed. On the second day of our vacation, we decided, perhaps irrationally, to rent two pontoon boats for the afternoon. One for 10 people, and one for 8 people. What started out a peaceful ride to a lagoon for relaxation quickly turned into something else.
Right at 1:00 pm my brother and my dad both went to get the two pontoons from the marina and drive them to our dock. As soon as they left, the sixteen of us that were still in the cottage were in a flurry:
“Remember the towels!”
“Did somebody grab the water bottles?”
“Get the sunscreen!”
“Put that down and help me carry this!”
“I said, BRING THE TOWELS!”
“Actually, you said ‘remember the towels’…”
“Shut up, smart-aleck.”
Not only were all sixteen people shouting simultaneously at each other, but we were all running (maybe tripping would be more accurate) through the cottage as well. Eventually, however, people started to file out of the cottage and head down to our dock. When we all got down to the dock, overloading the small space, we looked like the stereotypical family of tourists vacationing at a spot they’ve never been to before; each carrying four beach bags, pasty white skin from sunscreen, adults with beer in hand, cheap sunglasses smeared with grease, and waiting for the pontoon boats with a confused look.
Well, the pontoons did arrive and as they floated up, they were not what I was imagining. The ten-person pontoon was high-quality: leather cushioned seats, cup holders, and even functional doors that could close and stay closed! The one that I inevitably would be riding on, however, was crusty, small, full of spiders, and with doors that did not close.
We argued for a bit about who would be riding on each boat and finally arrived at this conclusion: The four parents, my grandpa, aunt, and my oldest sibling and her husband would ride on the ten-person boat, and on the smaller boat would be me, three of my older siblings, three of my older cousins, and my two brothers’ respective girlfriends.
It was now 1:30 and everyone was on a boat. Pushing off from the dock, I thought about how relaxing this boat ride would be. So, we pushed off from the dock and started out towards the lagoon. The only thing that my mind could focus on was the splashing of the waves against the shore and the soft breeze brushing against my face.
Very quickly, however, water started to rush on our boat from the front. With every wave, more water pooled, and more people started yelling.
“Move people to the back!”
“I really hope we don’t sink…”
“Please move to the back.”
Although we were joking about sinking (It’s impossible to sink a pontoon, right???), we did have some people who were standing at the front move to the back. As soon as we did that, poof! Like magic, all the water drained out and we were in good condition.
We got to the lagoon and hung out there for a bit. I was engrossed in my book and everyone was having a good time. Whether tossing a football, playing frisbee, talking with each other in the water, or rocking to some tunes, we were enjoying ourselves.
At this point, it was about 3:30. Time, like always, forced the fun to end and we had to start making our way back to our docks on the pontoons. We all loaded back up and began the ride back.
Within three minutes of leaving my brother and cousin walked to the front of the boat. Within five minutes of leaving our boat was halfway submerged in water and close to being a full-on disaster.
Let me explain. As soon as my brother walked to the front of the boat, he called my cousin up too. Both of them were the heaviest on our boat. With this obvious shift in weight, waves began crashing in. For the first ten seconds of them both being at the front, it was fine: a couple waves here and there, the boat would adjust. At the eleventh second, however, it was too much. Obscene amounts of water began to flood on the boat. The boat went from being horizontal and parallel to the water, to being at a 45-degree angle with the front half completely underwater.
Immediately, all nine of us on the boat were thrown into mayhem. Towels, cell phones, flip flops, beer bottles, sunglasses, lotion, and life jackets were all floating in water that had just flooded the boat. Furthermore, with half the boat underwater and at a 45-degree angle, everyone was desperately running to the not-underwater-part of the boat, otherwise known as the airborne section.
Zooming out, you would see nine people run to a corner on the boat, watch the boat tip in that direction, slowly at first but picking up speed, then watch all nine of them run to a different corner. And repeat for about two minutes. Meanwhile, our objects were being violently thrown around in the water.
In the background of this camaraderie, several people were shouting for help and we were all screaming. I genuinely thought the boat was going down. And I thought it was going down with all of us in it.
Eventually, we realized that we shouldn’t all run to the same corner and we managed to balance our weight and let the water slowly drain. The other pontoon pulled up to us in case we needed any help but we all ended up fine. We rode back in got off at our dock. Talking about the experience was honestly hilarious. Some objects were ruined, but the experience was totally worth it.
Yet, even writing this, I know I can never capture that moment completely. I will never be able to replicate the emotions, adrenaline, attitudes, expressions, and feeling of that pontoon ride. So I can only really appreciate it with those that I was with. My family was there to share the journey and experience something real with me. My memory will hold that journey forever, and only the people that were there with me will have the true experience. So now when I get together with my entire family, we will have a shared journey to discuss and laugh about. At the end of the day, it’s the moments with people that I cherish most.