We were paddleboarding at Cherry Creek State Park on a Sunday.
Fiona and I arrived before the parking lot was full. Before the reservoir was busy with motors and speckled with inflated boards. We laid claim to a small slice of the shore with a blanket, pumped up our paddleboard, and glided out onto this murky, settled substitute for the sea.
Soon a man was paddleboarding with his dog. A couple was passing by on kayaks. Motorboats were pulling waterskiers. Jet skies were spinning in circles. A group of college students pulled in large coolers under canopies.
Soon camped out next to us was a multi-generational family featuring a little boy jumping up and down in the water while his older brother waded in the water being responsible and remaining near.
This little boy was probably nine years old with ruffled dark hair, baby plump cheeks, and sweet brown skin. His smile was undeniably adorable and his laugh was contagious. This little boy was also, quite obviously, the only person on or around the water without something to float on or drive around.
I don’t know why I noticed that but I did. I don’t know why I felt like it was unfair but it’s how I felt. Like it wasn’t fair that everyone else had something while one little boy had nothing.
Sometimes I try to be normal but most of the time it’s too hard to resist being different when it’s behaving differently that makes sense.
Fiona was mortified when I told her I planned to ask the little boy if he would like to use our paddleboard. It was creepy. Like candy in a van or puppies in an alley creepy but I was already too far in to let it go and abandon my plan. I walked over, positioned myself so that the parents could see me well enough to provide a good description to the police, and asked the little boy if he would like to use my paddleboard.
I know Fiona saw when the little boy’s eyes doubled in size and his smile burst off his face and his yes! to my offer echoed across the lake. I know she saw his joy and understood why a paddleboard isn’t just a paddleboard. Why it was worth the risk of being ‘creepy’ to share something you are lucky to even have.
Fiona and I sat on the beach watching the little boy wriggle on the paddleboard as his older brother showed him the right way to stand. We heard him laugh and lose his balance and then get back on just like everyone else that was there. We watched him bring it back too soon and offer us two cold Gatorades in return.
“I wish I had had that idea…to ask him if he wanted to use our paddleboard,” Fiona said after he was gone. The lesson of the day most likely being that it’s okay to be creepy…as long as there isn’t any candy or puppies involved.