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When Jacob was three years old, I took him out in my lovely canoe along the shore of Lake Ontario. He wore his life jacket and his hat, and was eager and interested and already showing his great knack for balance. We went out a few times that summer, and he gained a sense of how to hold the paddle and the basic idea of paddling. The next summer, we’d barely launched when he pointed out with excitement that a huge hunk of the rock wall nearby had fallen over the winter. I carry lovely images of my son when he was older, out alone at sunset, peaceful with his fishing rod.
When Kyle was three, he had his first experience in the canoe too, following tradition. Also a natural athlete, his balance was easy, and both boys learned quickly to alternate sides, watching for fish or interesting lake bottom items. We tried fishing from the canoe that year and the next few – not entirely a success, as one or the other line constantly needed untangling. When Jacob hooked a big one, I insisted he was on bottom (wrong) and then we were all periously leaning over the same side. He landed the fish safely and I learned another humble lesson.
When our dog, Lucky turned three, she’d calmed down enough to learn her canoe lessons too. She loved it, learned quickly to recognize the word (as distinct from bike, walk, car etc) but would insist on riding awhile, then running the shoreline for awhile, then riding again.
When grandson Nathan turned three, I wasn’t in as good condition. However, it was important to me to do something special, just the two of us, and to maintain the tradition, so with help from my grown sons to launch, out we went. The Murray genes made it easy for him and he was intrigued by the strokes and the steering. The summer Nathan was four, Kyle’s pontoon boat was in the water, and he and I paddled out a couple of times, with my comfy chair as baggage, and had a picnic in the evening on the boat. The next summer he was allowed out on the end of a very long rope by himself, paddling and puttering and experimenting.
Now this summer, Nathan’s brother Mike has had his first time in the canoe, again when he was thrrrrreeee. (He has practised that lately.) He was not at all eager, but he wanted to do whatever Nathan and Nana were doing, and we were heading out. So, cautiously he joined us at my feet, sitting on a life jacket on the floor, wearing his own, while Nathan did most of the paddling. Nathan was generously willing to trade his seat in the bow – they passed each other like dancers, so easily balanced. Mike reveled in his position up front, and declared himself quite eager for another outing.
All four boys, and our dog, celebrating new freedoms, age three.