By Wayne William Cipriano
OK, here’s a real thought problem for you. What are the four dumbest words in the English language?
I will bet that will start a lot of dinner-table conversations and what a good thing that would be! What are your candidates?
We could argue about that for quite a while and considering the breadth of English and the depth of dumb there are going to be many, many contenders for the crown.
The four words I have chosen are “Hey, Mom, watch this…”
When we were kids we went swimming in The Pond. It is a very large pond just off the road that fronted my grandmother’s house. We put on our bathing suits and walked there carrying our towels, swim fins, diving masks, snorkels, boats, hoses nailed to blocks of wood to breathe underwater (that idea did not turn out so well), and all the other things a kid needs for a day at the water.
We would walk through a housing development, pass a small shopping center, go by a dairy farm, up and down several hills. It seemed to take forever, at least eight or ten miles from Gramma’s.
The Pond did not offer anything in the manner of niceties. There was a small “beach” made of pebbles and a picnic table someone had left behind. Not many people knew about it, I guess, because we never saw many people there.
The big deal was swimming across the entire pond to a bunch of large rocks piled on the opposite side. It was a passage out of childhood when you could swim well enough to make the trip by yourself.
I remember when I made the swim alone. It was at least half a mile and I floated several times to conserve energy so that I could finish. Many years afterward, Mom talked about how nervous she was watching me cross.
Once done, successive crossings were nothing at all. Especially attractive was the rock pile when the “Big Kids” were there jumping and diving. Like all of us, I wanted to hang with the in-crowd and was up for anything they did. Including The Dive.
The Dive was a running start along the tops of several rocks, then a leap over several more to enter the water in a deep hole surrounded by other rocks only slightly submerged. Never seemed very dangerous to me so I did it lots of times. But I never described it accurately to my parents either.
About a half a century later I returned to The Pond. Nowadays it is call The Lake, and it is owned and run by a municipality. It has an asphalt parking lot, a sandy beach, ropes and floats to signify the beginning of the deep water, changing and bathroom facilities, lots of tables and barbecue pits, a snack bar, lifeguards, a huge plywood sheet with countless rules painted on it, and a hefty admission charge. And, a very large sign at the entrance declaring the municipality accepts no liability at all for anything, ever, from now to the end of time. If you swim in The Lake you are on your own!
My Cousin Billy drove us there and just for fun I asked him to use his odometer to measure the distance from Gramm’s house to The Pond, now The Lake. We were both surprised that the trip that took forever as kids, and was at least eight miles, had shrunk over 50 years to exactly one mile! And, once there, we were again surprised to find the swim from the beach to the rock pile was not a half-mile but about 100 yards.
We walked around the edge of the pond/lake to the rock pile and climbed to the top and surveyed the running path we used to make The Dive. You had to clear about six feet of protruding rock after you dove, then drop into a hole about eight feet in diameter that was clearly ringed with large rocks barely under the surface. If your dive was short, you hit the protruding rock. If you dove too long or slightly off to one side, you hit the rocks around the hole covered by at the most, a foot of water.
As my Cousin Billy and I stood there and peered down at The Dive we had made so often when we were nine and 10-years-old, we simultaneously whispered the same two words, “Holy ––––!” Talk about senseless youthful indestructability. What a rush!!!
As we were walking away, discussing whether the large sign posted by the rocks forbidding both jumping and diving was very effective, two kids ten or twelve years old passed us walking toward the rock pile.
Neither Bill nor I turned around. We kept walking and both of us held our breaths until we heard the unmistakable sound of a diver entering deep water.
After all, what can you say to a kid who yells out, just before starting his run, the same thing Billy and I had yelled more than 50 years ago? “Hey, Mom, watch this…”