Three covenantal friends get in a boat …

We were stuck in the middle of the lake. Lake Lansing. This was Saturday and we’d had enough wind for the sailboat to show off and take us over sandbars and fish and water that felt warm because Lake Michigan had been so cold last week.

But the wind was shy so there we were, Sarah, Tom, and I—three-fourths of the Small Things adults—leaning back against the sides of the borrowed boat. We were like the bobber on the end of both fishing poles I’ve ever held: closer to still than actually bobbing. I had only been sailing once before—and I use that phrase to mean “I sat in the boat while my friend Sarah captained like a boss.” This time, she and her husband instructed me to pull a rope a couple times, so … “I sailed a boat” is now something I can put on my life’s resume.

Perfect, isn’t it, being stuck on a lake? My hair was damp from swimming. A couple of our kids’ voices skimmed atop the water to our ears in the boat. They were swimming by the shore and arguing over a raft and the three of us parents were blissfully unavailable for the peace talks. Bummer. Apologies to Chaperone Dave, the missing piece in our group of four. Stuck with five small, Small Things people.

Out in the middle, I felt the sun on my shoulders and I was happy. The real sailors were annoyed, but I was on a boat. What a luxury, to just wait. I’ve spent a lot of time waiting on the wind with these people. I’m good at it by now.

… You can tell school’s back in session for my two elementary-aged kids. I’m speaking in metaphor again. 

Since the beginning of our years of small things, now three years? Is that right? We’d been sitting in a lot of motionless boats: how in the cuss do we pay these bills and where will our kids go to school and no my depression is fine it’s FINE I said IT’S— OK STOP ASKING I’LL GO TO MY DOCTOR. Also, when’s the last time you took a sabbath, Sarah?

Now, we’re back on shore with a few things. We’ve made some decisions about Real Life things and all four of us are still here, still like each other. Sometimes stuck in a metaphorical boat, but at least we like the company and trust them to get us to shore eventually.

One of those things was the question about my kids’ schools. We’re settled with our decision and we made a choice based on eons of discernment and conversations over dinner tables (and therapy offices; no shame). Hijacking my imagination when I think about our decision-making isn’t regrets or self-loathing or anything. 

It’s that they’re still here, these covenantal friends, Sarah and Tom. Dave and I made a decision they might not have chosen—and they’re still here. And maybe that doesn’t sound soops incredible. After all, the decision wasn’t terribly personal to them. Except it was: this was a couple years of circular discussions and engaging kids in questions and then toppling off topic when someone needed a time-out. Or a “bonus round” popsicle. These friends are still in the boat.

So it was really no big deal that we were stuck on the lake, Lake Lansing or any of them.

And you know? Poets say the wind’s invisible, but you can see it coming. When I was a kid, this Ohioan heard it like rain when it ran its fingers across the top of corn stalks. And on a lake, I learned, you can see it in “sparkly water,” the ripples on the surface that are mesmerizing and silent. “Here it comes,” one of them would say, and they’d move a sail, pull a rope. We’d, you know, sail.

And the wind keeps moving; that’s the thing about wind. When wind stops we call it air. I don’t think a lot about air. But the wind? “Remember last summer? How still the wind was the last time we sailed?” “Yeah, I didn’t think we’d make it back to shore.” But we did. We must’ve caught enough of it to push us to the dock, though to be honest I can’t remember that part. I remember being in a boat with Sarah, wondering if we’d die out there. And it was so pretty anyway.


CURIOUS ABOUT THE SCHOOLS TOPIC?: Read Erin & her guests’ posts in the Passing Notes series HERE.

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