59. Bobby fell in the lake… What, again?

Published on 19 January 2024 at 12:34

© 2024 Robert Sickles

The first home I remember was a waterfront property, on a little cove of Indian Lake in Denville, NJ. We had a dock and a rowboat that I played around, and there were places for me to explore lily pads and gravelly shallows. And there was an intriguing Gibraltar-shaped rock poking up in the water a few yards from our shore. It was so fascinating; in my child's eye it looked like an enchanted island. My brother rowed me out to it one day and it turned out to be just a disappointing lump of granite the size of a hassock; my infatuation with it was over, but the water still called to me.

If I believe what I see in my old box of family photographs, I must have had an unhappy knack for falling in the lake when I was little. Fortunately, someone was always there to pull me out. Unfortunately they also had the Kodak at the ready.

Before I posted my last story about traveling across America with my brother Roger, I asked him if there was anything he wanted me to add. I’m glad I did that because he countered my statement that we never had a proper chance to bond as brothers due to the big difference in our ages.  He said that he loved having a baby brother and enjoyed looking after me. He reminded me of a time when I was copying him throwing stones off our dock. I tossed one, lost my balance, and followed the stone right into the shallow water. Roger was there quickly to pull me out. Mom wouldn’t listen to his claim of saving my life, instead she was angry at him for not watching me more carefully. Mom's reaction planted a crazy belief in my young mind that stuck for a long time—that Roger pushed me in! How many other false memories does that photo box perpetuate?

The Indian Lake Community had a baby parade in boats down at the beach club. Mom dressed me and a couple of my sandbox pals as Noah and his family, and arranged all our stuffed animal toys around the sides of the our rowboat, representing the “Ark.” Of course, I had no idea who Noah was and why all my toys were in our boat. When we passed the judge’s stand, we were supposed to face the beach and wave for the cameras. The crew shifted around in the seats trying to get into the best photo-op position, someone stood up, and our boat began to capsize and all the toys and kids spilled out. Flailing and sputtering, I was grasping desperately to save my best friend—no, not Billy Carroll, but my little panda, Teddy. He was my only toy that survived the disaster, all the others floated out to deep water, never to be seen again. Oh, my goodness, the chaos on the beach! The parents, the judges, and Harold, our wimpy-pimple lifeguard all sounded like a gaggle of alarmed geese, running and flapping this way and that. My mother jumped in and practically hydroplaned across the water to lift me up and grab the bowline before the boat sank into the two-foot depths. Billy stood up in the shallow water, bewildered in the middle of everything, looked around and asked what was going on. We got an honorable mention ribbon, though I’m sure the boat sinking should have disqualified us.

Dad’s company had picnics at the little lake next to their offices. I often fell in there too, usually not yet changed into my bathing suit. For some reason, everyone thought it was so funny. Of course, the laughter was more upsetting than just having wet clothing. People who didn’t even know who I was referred to me simply as the kid who fell in the lake every year.

And at a big summer event at a pond near New Jersey’s High Point Park, there must have been games, races, balloons, hotdogs… but all I remember is crying in my wet overalls while Dad snapped another photo. I guess he thought I looked pretty cute, all soaking and pathetic. See picture above. Linda said, “Aww, so cute!” I supposed you’ll agree.

So where is the photo of Bobby rowing the boat and not falling in the lake?  Where was Dad and the camera when I swam out to the float and took my first dive? I dunno, did I ever even swim out to the float and dive in? It’s like all the healthy accomplishments that kids are expected to do in the course of development—nobody thought to memorialize them for me.  Did they think I'd get a big head if they saved too many pictures of my shining moments?  

Do you see how that photo box messes with my mind? It’s gaslighting me, folks!

The way out of this is quite simple. I just measured my head and it is indeed large, so if there was a whacko strategy to keep me from getting a big head, it failed. Hah! Also, I have no one to blame but myself for digging through that box and consistently seeking out the photo of Bobby in his wet overalls.

If my eye offends me, I can look at something else. I'm going to search that box right now, and look for photos of my happy moments.  Be right back… 

...Half hour later. Wow, look what I found! Dad caught this moment of little Bobby bonding with his big brother Roger.  He sure doesn't look like someone who'd push me in the lake! I don’t think I’ve even noticed this picture before—I think I feel a shift.  

Which leads to heavy questions: Who am if I pull the belief that my tragical/comical memories matter to anyone? I hope you always recognize my point is not that I fell down, but that I got back up! 

Could I bear to part with keepsake stories about falling in the lake? Oh, well, considering I have enjoyed telling you all about them, probably not just yet!


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5 months ago

Thanks again for sharing Robert. I now have an idea of where the phrase " you're all wet" came from.

5 months ago

Not every adult Male is brave enough to display a photo of his cute little behind for everyone to see. Hard to believe this man tells himself he is an introvert!

5 months ago

This predilection for falling in lakes would explain your aversion for bathing in later life. 🤣
Is that a bare butt you're showing in the picture with Roger??