Come On In. The Water’s Fine!

by Lauren Clark

I grew up in a sleepy little fishing town in coastal Mississippi where the seafood is always fresh, the beer is cold and the mosquitoes work over time for the American Red Cross blood bank.  Living on the Gulf Coast, a significant amount of my growing up years were centered around the water and water activities.  

I have vivid childhood memories of crabbing with my siblings and cousins in a drainage ditch that bordered my Aunt Sis’s house and Magnolia Street. The ditch emptied into a tributary of the local river and, during the summer, the was usually only ankle deep, which made catching crabs quite easy. It did not take a master crabber to catch the elusive crustaceans between two of Mama’s cooking pots. But my fondest memories of crabbing were the thimes when Mama’s sister, Gracie, would load all of us kids up in her car and take us for our annual beach trip to Dauphin Island.   

Located about an hour east, traveling on the two-lane Highway 90, Dauphin Island was located just off the coast of Mobile, Alabama and was a buffer between the crashing surf of the Gulf of Mexico and the docile Mobile Bay. We used more sophisticated techniques for crabbing with Aunt Gracie.  Crab nets were attached to long strings and strategically dropped from the fishing pier to be pulled up periodically to see if they contained any crabs.  Crabs were so plentiful along the fishing pier that it didn’t take long to reach our daily quota, so most of the day was spent wading and body surfing in the aquamarine, salty water. We would spend hours in the water, making our fingers look like prunes and our skin redder than a pot full of cooked crabs.    

As I grew older, my love for the water sports also grew. Summers were spent swimming in Krebs Lake, boating with my cousin, Buddy, in the Pascagoula river or sailing with friends between the beach and Round Island. I would think nothing of jumping into the deep, inviting water of the Mississippi sound to cool off from the heat of the searing sun. Life was fun and carefree in the water. But all that changed for me in the summer of 1975.  

In June of 1975, Universal Studios released its blockbuster movie, “Jaws”, based on a New York Times 1974 best seller book by Peter Benchley.  You know the story: a mammoth Great White shark terrorized a small New England coastal town. The lengthy movie, although entertaining, forever changed my attitude about being in the water from one of “fun in the sun” to “do I see a fin?” I could no longer get back into the water without hearing those two, distinctively haunting, bass notes from the movie’s musical score by John Williams. Daaaah Dum! 

It has been many years since the Summer of ‘75, but to this day when asked what my biggest fear is, I never hesitate, “Becoming an easy appetizer for a hungry shark!” I always wanted to surf, to be able to ride the crest of a wave, to “hang ten” atop a sleek, fiberglass board. That would be so cool! But then, I hear that haunting sound track and I envision that gigantic set of teeth. Now-a-days, the only time you will find me in the water is in the shower or in the rain.   

As we begin a new year filled with unlimited possibilities, what fears are keeping you from getting what you want? What are the dorsal fins in your life that scare you and keep you from trying something new? A new job, a new look, a new relationship? Most of the time our fears are ill-founded. I have never seen a fin in the water, have never been bitten by a shark, or even witnessed the menacing eyes of a Great White. It has all been in my head.  

So, I encourage you to go for what you want this year.  It may be scary, but the rewards could be phenomenal. Don’t let this year pass you by, fearing to get in the water because you thought you saw a fin. Hey, why don’t we hold hands and wade into the ocean of our fears together? You never know what opportunities await us there. Surf’s up!

Lauren Clark is the owner of Creative Wellness for You and a recruiter/consultant with Nikken. As an amateur comedian, she believes that humor is an important part of wellness. She frequently participates in open mic nights at Pitt Street Brewing Company and other local venues where she performs stand-up comedy. Lauren also enjoys writing, through which she shares her unique and humorous perspective through memories and stories from her own life. For a more complete experience, read this story again, and don’t forget that the author is a master of sarcasm and dry humor.

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