For human and loon moms, attachment is a hard thing to shake

Hello from North Haven!

As is family tradition for the past few years, my sisters and their husbands and Penrose, Bill and I ventured north and inland to my parents’ house. Although it’s very close to the lake we grew up canoeing in, it’s not our childhood home. They sold that sprawling farmhouse a few years ago and built a more appropriately sized and easy to maintain place with lake association access to Parker Pond. My dad loves to fish, and my mother loves to photograph wildlife, and they love to do both of those things from kayaks, so the easy drive to the shared dock was a real draw.

Parker Pond, as far as I can tell, is blissfully unchanged from when I was a child. It’s still glass-like in the coves and a bit choppy in the middle; sunnies, perch and bass still leap to catch bugs and artfully tied flies; and the clear, tannic water still smells like silt, rain and water lilies. We used to launch a canoe (when I was in AP History I thought “Tippiecanoe” was hilariously apt) from the public boat landing, and now my parents have semi-private access across the lake from which to kayak and paddleboard. Motorboats still drone circles around the center, sending sine waves to wobble the docks, and pine-covered islands still dot the expanse, heralded by the sudden appearance of really big rocks that scrape against the bottom of unsuspecting boats.

After a rainy arrival on the 1st, July 2nd was hot and humid. As quickly as we could, eight adults and one three-year-old donned various bathing suits (Penrose of course was in her striped number), loaded the beds of trucks with kayaks and my deflated paddleboard, and headed to the water. Penrose had a less than pleasant experience at the lake last year – she refused to go in, and then sobbed on the dock with her aunt when I went in without her – so to start things off on a happy note Bill plopped her on the front of my paddleboard and we took a little cruise around. Lake water lapped over the front of the board, and she hung her feet off the side. We circled back around as it got hotter, and after tethering the board to the float, we went for a little swim. She giggled and kicked and splashed as I swam around with her tucked under one arm, ladybug life jacket and inflatable dragon assisting us.

A good start to the day. Note the human chick’s proximity to its mother. Photo by Lauren Naliboff, used with permission.

I’m a pretty strong swimmer, but toting an extra thirty pounds was tiring, so after a while I told her I was going to swim alone. The hysterics began almost immediately. After getting her safely to the dock, I swam – guiltily, blissfully – out to the float. Bill put her back on the paddleboard in an attempt to distract her, and she sat in stony silence on the front, a disapproving figurehead. As they pulled up alongside me, she wanted to hold my hand.

“You swam AWAY from me, Mama,” she said, accusingly.

“I did swim away from you. I love to swim, and I’m not going to stop swimming. I swam with you for a long time, and now I get to swim by myself,” I explained calmly while bobbing alongside the paddleboard.

I offered to swim with her again, which we did, until a wave went up her nose. Kayaking went much more smoothly, since she got to sit on my lap.

Courting a happy kid, the next day we visited the Sandy River. There, she could walk into shallow water rather than be towed around off a dock. She spent two hours running in and out of the river and rolling in the mud on the bank with her parents, aunts and uncles all in close proximity. This was where my sisters and I swam at times when we were teens, and the rope swing that our braver friends used still hangs under the Route 4 bridge. It’s not exactly peaceful, since it’s in the shadow of a cement plant, but it’s pretty and clean, and after the previous day’s ups and downs it was a relief to let her run the show. We got Mexican food for lunch and sat outside, and took her home for her nap.

The human chick explores the Sandy River, with family watching closely. Photo by Lauren Naliboff, used with permission.

While she was ostensibly (but not actually, as it turned out), napping, with my mother and one of my sisters babysitting, I went back to the lake with Bill, one of my brothers-in-law, and my dad. While the three of them spread out in kayaks to harass some fish, I took off on my paddleboard, grateful for some solo time. After fighting the wind in the middle, I visited a grassy cove. Gliding above the grasses, water lilies and the shadows of fish, I felt like I was flying. I was completely unencumbered and practically walking on water.

A loon call behind me made me look just in time to see a pair with their two chicks out for an afternoon swim. One chick rode on an adult’s back, and the other trailed slightly behind. It motored its tiny feet and caught up, clambering back aboard. I think I know what it said as it remounted:

“You swam AWAY from me, Mama!”

Courtney Naliboff

About Courtney Naliboff

In addition to this blog, I'm a contributing writer to kveller.com, a Jewish parenting site, a blogger and book reviewer for reformjudaism.org, and the author of Salt Water Cure, a column in Working Waterfront. I report news from North Haven for Working Waterfront and Island Journal, and was a speaker at the Maine Conference for Jewish Life in 2015. Follow Frozen Chosen on facebook or visit my Web site for more writing and free music to download!