Mr. P is trailing well behind us, testing his rain boots in the shallow creek that rushes oceanward through the sand, poking at shells with his walking stick. Shmoogie is racing ahead and we can see her hesitate as we yell at her to stop and wait. She thinks she might just keep going, but decides on the subtler strategy of appearing to stop, then inching forward every few seconds, hoping we might not notice her disobedience.
The three of us (and a very sandy dog) end up sitting on a log of driftwood, waiting for Mr. P in the cool April drizzle of the Olympic Pacific coast.
Mr. P doesn't come to join us (or even look in our direction) when he gets to our log, but wades into the creek right in front of us where an enormous rock (any mini golf course would be proud of such a feature) has pushed the water to each side. Ten feet in and the water is still barely lapping his toes. He is closer to that tempting island now than to the shore, and his determination to get there is easy to read. He cautiously steps into slightly deeper water, then a little deeper.
Having had our own experiences with creeks and water flow and large rocks, we grownups realize there must be a channel a good bit deeper, though very narrow, right against the edge of the rock. Mr. P seems to realize he doesn't quite know all there is to know about this situation, but the island is so close and so charming that he presses on, slowly and carefully.
He pulls back when water spills over the edge of his boots, retreating to the shallows to dump it out and mutter to himself, "That was a bad idea."
But he is soon at the edge of the deeper part once again, carefully wading back in until his boots again fill with with water and he again retreats, pours out the slosh, and heads back in.
This time, he looks down briefly as the creek tops his boots, but is determined to stand his ground. About three feet from the alluring rock he stands still for a moment, then lunges forward, briefly up to his crotch in the creek before flopping out onto the island. Pulling himself up away from the water, he sits down and pours out his boots again. This time I can just barely hear his muttering, "That was a really bad idea."
The next moment, he is perched on a log which crowns the glorious rock, grinning like the triumphant seven year old he is. We start to laugh, thrilled by his unbridled joy, as we watch him survey his tiny rocky kingdom.
Shmoogie wants to go, too, and her loyal (for now) brother calls for us to get her over there, but we say she is too little and she doesn't press the issue much.
Next, Mr. P is feeling cold and has decided that the trip out to his coveted rock was unpleasant enough that he would like to avoid the return journey. "Make a bridge for me!" he calls out to his indulgent parents. Daddy tries the weight of a smallish driftwood log, but declares it too heavy.
Mr. P frowns and declares he will just stay on the rock forever, then.
Mommy picks her way over to the edge of the channel, because although she is 6 months pregnant and therefore a bit ungainly on the algae-slicked pebbles, she is also wearing rubber boots while Daddy is wearing only sneakers. Mr. P is still demanding a bridge. Mommy wades carefully as deep as she dares, letting the water come to within a half inch of her boot tops. This puts her a few feet from the island, maybe two arm's length. She begins coaxing Mr. P. Sit on your bottom, she says, scoot down. Put your foot on that ledge right there under the water, see? Mr. P tries again to find some other way, again declares he will just stay on the rock forever. Mommy explains that he is only going to get colder the longer he sits there. She reminds him that he got there on his own and he can get back out, it will be cold, but only for a minute and then we'll go get dry and warm. She holds out her arms. Mr. P considers, then launches himself into the breech.
For a moment, I think he is doing a belly flop right into the water. Then I think I'm going to be knocked over. But by some miracle we both stay upright, a tiny wave breaks over the top of only one of my boots, and we are walking out, a few inches of creek gently rippling around our feet.
We are both grinning, but Mr. P's happiness is soon replaced by his more natural self. "That was a really bad idea," he says, again. "I don't know," I say, "I think it was an interesting experience."
"I think I might have hypothermia," he says.
"I don't think so," I say, "You're still walking and talking and making sense. When you have hypothermia you start to get really sleepy and you can't think straight."
"That was a really bad idea," he says again.
"But you learned a lot of things," I say.
"Like about water and how it gets deep when it runs around things like rocks. And how being wet makes you colder. And things like that. Why do you think the water was so deep right next to the rock?"
This kind of chat distracts him for a bit, but he claims hypothermia again once before we get back to the cabin. Then he gets a warm shower and dry clothes and borrows my wool socks for a little while and is quickly recovered, although still perhaps a little shaken by his own boldness and whatever he imagines could have happened if things hadn't happened the way they did. We talk about why cotton sweatpants aren't warm when they get wet and disabuse him of the notion (where did it come from?) that cotton is the fur of animals. No, cotton comes from plants and plants don't need to stay warm. Wool, though, beloved marvelous wool, is the coat of an animal that most definitely wants to stay warm, and it will keep you warm, too, at least a bit, even when it's soaked quite through.