It’s a beautiful day, just what the family has been hoping for.
The boat trip has been planned weeks in advance but the problem is that you can’t predict the weather in a country like ours. Great advantage is that there are loads of lakes and canals that connect these. That way you can spend days on the water going through the flat landscape.
I’m three years old and Big Sister is six. Smart as she is she will tell everybody that it is six and a half. We are the only children aboard and we enjoy all the attention from the aunts and uncles.
The boat is gliding through the water very easily and there is hardly any wind. Yet the adults hold us tight when we want to look in that water. Sometimes we think we see a fish and big sister shouts for father. Maybe he should angle here, or there.
One of the uncles knows a lovely spot he has said. We’ll have a picnic over there.
Big Sister and I don’t have a clue what a picnic is, but it sounds very interesting and we dance around from joy.
It takes longer than we expected, so after a while we forget about it.
Until the uncle yells: “There!”. We all look and it’s a meadow with three trees standing next to each other. It will be possible to be in the sunshine or in the shade, what Mama always wants.
The engine is stopped and the anchor is thrown in the water. Big Sister and I don’t understand how to get on the land. There is still quite a gap between the boat and the grassy land. But the adults pick up a plank that has been there all along and put on the edge of the boat to the shore.
Uncle Hank goes first over this plank, does something with the other end and announces that it is secured.
First the aunts and Mama go ashore with baskets full of drinks and nice food. Then some more uncles follow. Papa now grabs me and starts swinging me a bit. I know this and it always makes me giggle. But this time it’s different: Papa throws me in the air! I close my eyes in ultimate fear. It looks like a long time but I land safely in the arms of Uncle Hank.
He puts me down, but I’m shaking like a leaf.
Papa now wants to grab Big Sister. She has seen me flying and starts screaming: “No, no, I don’t want it! I’m scared!” Papa explains the only other way to get on the land is to walk the plank.
Big Sister nods, she understands.
One of the aunts wants to take me from the spot but I fight my hand out of hers. What will happen to Big Sister?
I can sense her fear when she steps on the plank. Papa is holding one of her hands and Uncle Hank is already reaching out for the other one. Progress is very slow and the adults are encouraging her: “Come on! You can do it, Big Girl!” I can see that she has to make two steps on her own and I feel myself freeze. The first step on her own she makes but the second one goes with stumbling and she loses her balance. Hands waving desperately in the air she falls in the water. I can see the black water closing over her head.
After what seems ages Uncle Hank has his arms in the water and out she comes again. Spitting out water and crying like anything. Mama comes to her with a towel and clean underwear. While drying Big Sister she tells her not to cry anymore. Nothing has happened and we’re all okay. She has to stop crying otherwise the aunts and uncles will think she is a baby.
The adults all get to sit on a few blankets they have put next to each other on the meadow.
Big Sister and I get our own blanket, a checkered one with green and red squares. She is told again not to cry anymore and we both get cakes and a mug with lemonade. “But don’t let it fall over!”
Mama has gone to the adults and I see Big Sister in her white underwear behind her mug, now crying in a silent manner.
I feel I should do something and go on my knees towards her. She smells a bit like the potato bucket in our kitchen. When I sit next to her I take her hand in mine and feel how I start to cry along.
On the other end of the blanket I see through my tears my tripped over mug. The lemonade is on top of the squares and slowly changing the colours into dark green and dark red.