Thankyou Kate Motaung for triggering a revisit to my 7 year old self, in a place I loved and was terrified of: the Sea. Here I got something I’ll never let go of: how to ride a giant wave!
Age 7 is a tricky sweet dangerous age to utterly trust a stranger, in a spot like that, deep sea. Those waves weren’t called Breakers for nothing. But Bro. Harrison (name unchanged*) was the kind of human any family would trust.
This was the Bay of Bengal, summer. He was an Australian lumbering red raw sunburnt priest on vacation from a Boys’ school in Darjeeling; he was dear and kind and sweet. Would take endless pictures of us, and himself, all black and white. He’d send us statutes and post cards from Italy and wherever he went. Summers were in our little coastal tourist village; he loved Indian fish fries, and Dad’s laughter in our veranda overlooking the sea. Then he’d hoist me over his shoulder to the beach. Ofcourse I trusted him, and he proved his worth in sand and mid sea, even with a six footer wave crest crackly overhead, spiffing white crystal fire in the gold sun.
I was afraid;
the Sea was a scary beautiful friend. She’d sweep out her large green blue skirts at my toes then swing them back in to herself, tempting me to go in deeper. I’d run in for shells, then fly back out again at another wave that chased me right to the edge of our hard flat beach, up the massive sand bund to where our compound wall overlooked a panoramic 180 degrees of this terrific watery Friend.
Brother H. as we called him, (he refused to be called uncle, flouting all nice Indian courtesy to senior relative), said it made him feel older than his 50, and that he was a child inside. He was. He was also a sort of Angel, no trace of guile or meanness, only the joy of living life to the full.
“Come on, old lady!” He’d yell over our mulling muttering crash- echoing Bay. He was a certified Life Saver, I didn’t understand that but it made me feel important, and saved somehow from the churling tide, its rush and fervor, its lunging, pulling, eddy and mega swill.
B. H. would ask me to hold on to the tube and trust him as we paddled deeper in to where waves began.
The idea was to go through that startling blue water wall before it crashed- then ride its crest all the way ashore.
It was the most somersaulty crazy thing I’ve experienced or ever will. If I’d known how to swim, it would’ve not been as dangerous. Here I had to trust Bro. H., I had to go where he said, hold tight no matter my nose and face were smashed in that coaster, no matter I was in a sand-&-water rollercoaster, ears and brain thounding (yeah, you’d get new words) with the crash of tide in maddened swell.
The sound it still startles me but not as much as the glory of re-surfacing in great gulp of air, Bro.H’s laughing grey blue eyes, his lung full of a whoop shout, as we settled in the shoulder of yet another giant wave as she rode us all the way back to shore….
where sometimes dad or ma waited, wondering that I needed this.
Years down, I’ve relived that time there, over and over. It’s one empowered way to ride a risky wave like that – in the sea, or in Life elsewhere: surprise that Thing that’s coming at us, go through It holding on to the Hand that holds you & me better than we could hold ourselves, then break free as the Breath of God kicks in Life in our frame,
ride that Wave for the sheer joy of knowing that’s why there are Waves and Oceans, Sands and Seas in the stories of our lives.
Thankyou Kate M. & Storytellers, and all of Blog world for reminding me; I’m feeling 7 years old, at sea with the Hand that holds all.
*years down, I searched Facebook for him, we’d shifted cities and we’d lost touch. He wasn’t the kind to stop writing or telling us where he was, but he did. I suspected the worst; and found his smiling black and white profiles in a FB page dedicated to him by people who knew him, as we did too. Bro H. was/ is one if the most magnificent human beings ever created: he taught this 7 year old to walk on high walls, chase sand crab, find sea horse, race waves, love sea boats, love life no matter where….