Not many people have someone in their life that’s a constant. Friends and acquaintances flit out of our lives like tiny hummingbirds, too fast to see or appreciate. Most people however, have one exception, and that’s family. Family will be with you through thick and thin. This is proven most when you move away for the first time, because you will not only realize how much you depend on your parents, but you will also realize that you know nothing.
You will also learn that your parents will help you move (they may do this with varying degrees of grumbling) but they will help you all the same, even if you’ve moved every year for the past 5 years, they will still help you. When you’re little you don’t quite realize how much your parents do for you, and I’m not just talking about the obvious picking up and cleaning that they do, I’m talking about the ridiculous requests and overreactions that they have to deal with too. Like that time I made my mother canoe 20 metres because I wouldn’t swim to shore.
Growing up my family owned a cottage. We had to drive five minutes to get a signal on the chunky brick we called a cell phone. It was a two-minute walk to the lake, which we basically had to ourselves. The lake was small and not well-known, even to people who lived out in the sticks. My siblings and I would roam the forest, playing fort and feeding chipmunks as many peanuts as they could stuff in their cheeks. One time we even managed to catch one in a minnow cage (even though my mom said it wouldn’t work) but that’s a different story. Our cottage sat in the middle of a clearing, painted a sunshine yellow. It was a place where childhood dreams flourished. The cottage didn’t have electricity, or traditional running water (we had a system of rain barrels to provide water), and there was an outhouse to do your business in. As it was the early 2000's we were happy to get outside and play. We never missed TV at the cottage and the internet wasn’t really a thing back then. There was one other family with kids that would come to the lake quite frequently and they would join in our imaginings.
Frank was another person that would come to the cottage a lot. He was basically an uncle to my siblings and I, he built the swing set and the teeter-totter down at the lake, along with the raft and the dock that we spent our summers jumping off of. He was the one that first told us the story of Nessie, the Loch Ness monster of Bowl Lake. To us it held a fascination, we were always on the lookout for the biggest turtle Frank had ever seen, but we had never found it. As a kid, Nessie of Bowl Lake was up there with Big Foot and actual Nessie. Nessie of Bowl Lake was a story that everyone in the whole world knew and soon people would come looking for her, only to be told we found her first. After looking for Nessie for a good two weeks that summer we figured the turtle had died; gotten too old and withered away. Nessie was a thing of legends, something that we had thought long dead, and something that we couldn’t even realize the size of.
One day both our families were down at the lake, swimming out to the raft that floated about 20 metres off shore. The raft had a diving board and a slide, and was built from old plywood stuck to barrels to make it float. I was climbing the stairs to the raft when I felt something hit my foot. Thinking it was just a stick rising from the bottom of the lake I ignored it and kept going. My friend was up on the dock waiting for me to climb the stairs. I remember her hopping from foot to foot, trying to keep the hot wood from burning the bottom of her feet, water running down to make splotches on the dry wood. She probably told me to hurry up at that point, which would just make me go slower. I was almost to the top of the stairs, when the stick hit the bottom of my foot again. It seemed too solid to be a stick that’d been living in water all its life, so I craned my head to peer between my knees at it. Looking down into the water I saw that the stick wasn’t a stick. That the stick was actually the head of a snapping turtle.
The snapping turtle that I was stepping on was Nessie. No, she wasn’t dead. And yes, she was a huge, old turtle. I just remember looking at her shell covered in moss and algae and thinking this turtle is going to bite me. I swear I have never climbed stairs faster in my life. I made it over the side of the raft and that’s when the screaming started. My friend didn’t know what I was screaming about at first, until she looked over the side of the raft to where I was pointing, and noticed the huge snapping turtle still floating by the ladder. As you’d expect, my friend started freaking out, and screaming as well. I can only imagine what we looked like to our families over at shore. We were a pair of girls clutching each other, standing in the middle of the raft and screaming our lungs out. We were both shouting frantically that Nessie had come back and not to get in the water because she might attack you.
My mom of course was wondering what the heck was going on so she stood up and asked us, cupping her hands to make it easier for us to hear her at a distance. We yelled back that Nessie was there and wouldn’t leave us alone. I don’t remember who said it, but there was someone telling us to just swim back and we’d be fine, but we weren’t going anywhere until Nessie left the area around the raft. After a lot of screaming and crying my mother agreed to paddle out in the canoe and come get us. As soon as my mom got close to the raft (on the opposite side of Nessie) we both hopped into the canoe, screaming for her to paddle back to shore as quick as she could. But of course, my mom wanted to see Nessie so instead of heeding the hysterics of two wound up girls she paddled closer to Nessie. Being a kid, I thought Nessie was going to jump into the boat and eat our toes for disturbing her slumber, but that didn’t happen. After seeing how huge and old Nessie was my mom said she didn’t blame us for wanting a ride back in the canoe. When we got back to shore, we stood wrapped in towels, shivering slightly, telling the crew on shore our tale.
While it is one of the cooler things that has happened to me, it also shows how my mother will do anything for her children; even if it’s just paddling 20 metres because your child is too much of a wuss to swim near a snapping turtle.
That was the first and last time I ever saw Nessie, but I hope that she’s still alive and kicking today…or at least not getting kicked.
Madeleine Lange-Chenier is a small-town girl who much prefers the feel of grass beneath her feet than concrete city streets. She likes to read (mostly fiction), write (just about anything), and tell her pets how cute they are (approximately 1,000 times a day). She makes really good guacamole and really bad cheese scones.