“Mason!” I scream, and once again his head pops through the surface. Breaking free of my inertia, I scramble off my own tube into the water, finding myself also dragged along by the current and unable to stand. While I struggle to hold onto my tube and swim to him, he continues to be pulled farther and farther away. Then, again, he goes under. Panicked, I wonder how much longer he can fight the river before he’s lost to it. But he resurfaces.
“Catch this!” I scream, shooting my tube to him. But it’s caught by swirling water, where it whirls uselessly in place.
“Maa-maa!” Mason cries in distress. Without the tubes, we’re helpless. Suddenly, in a flash, I remember an instruction from a whitewater-rafting course Sonny and I took decades agos: always put your feet up in front of you. That’s it!
“Mason, Put your feet up! Listen to me! Get your toes where you can see them. Put them above the water,” I yell, and I do the same. And then, miraculously, the whirlwind ride stops. Mason stops struggling and slows ahead of me.
He looks around and grins, “Whee!!! This is fun!” We’re drifting easily now, directing our travel with our arms, steering ourselves to a nearby placid pool. We stand together and laugh, hugging.
At the end of the day, I set our camp, cook our dinner, and map out the next leg of our journey. Tired but relaxed, I plop down in my camp chair. Mason eases into my lap and I wrap my arms around him. We sway together, head against head, as I hum a familiar tune from good ol’ Hank Williams: “Let me travel this land from the mountains to the sea, ’cause that’s the life I believe he meant for me.” The sun melts behind the imposing limestone cliffs over the river, leaving a trace of rosy sky in its place. I smile, satisfied, warmed by our glorious campfire—that I built.
Dehryl Mason, PhD, is a practicing clinical psychologist in Birmingham, Alabama. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org