After seeing this picture I had 2 choices. Weep because I was so fat or celebrate the fact that my big-ole-fat-self still “had it”. After a long and lengthy internal debate I decided on to celebrate and just accept it-is-what-it-is.

Summer on lake Hartwell has a hidden surprise. Under a narrow, hand-hewn wooden bridge that you swear your boat won’t fit under lies a snaky (literally) canal that is straight out of a Disney ride. Birds chirp and you putter your way under a canopy of trees. Sunlight dapples the water when it can sneak thru the foliage. It’s 10 degrees cooler under the trellis of ancient tress. Mountain laurel dots the banks adding a pop of color now and then. Around the 5th or 6th bend you begin to hear a sound that you can’t quite place. The closer you get the louder it becomes. The air chills yet again until at last the sound becomes a roar and you spy your first glimpse of THE FALLS.

The boat has to stop beside an old-dilapidates gristmill that has long since fallen in. 2 grand of grinding stones remain. From the looks of things more then one person has underestimated the incredible weight of these solid round stones. Like old grave poachers they have attempted to rob the structure of her history but have been unsuccessful. CRRREEEEAKKKK—the aluminum pontoons scrape across river rock and you know you have arrived.

Jumping out of the boat into the ice cold water is jolting. The water is pulled from the bottom of mountain ponds and streams and feels like snow that has barely melted. It takes your breath. Beneath your feet you can see stones and pebbles and boulders. It takes a few minutes for your legs to numb to the cold. By that time you’ve reached the FALLS and the spray off the 3 story waterfall assaults your upper extremities making you shiver all over again. The roar of the water falling onto and off of rocks drowns out any other sound.

As kids we learned to climb up the slippery rocks. Miniscule spots of granite that has remained rough after all these years’ serves as footholds. Sparse spots of moss under trickles of water offer brief reputes from the treacherous slides. You have to know where you are going to make it across. On this day 4 of the 5 grandkids clamored out of the boat. I watched as they sloshed their way to the intimidating waterfall. Despite my age and my size I felt the pull of the rocks. It only took my dad saying, “Go show ‘em how it’s done” for me to shed by ample cover-up and take to the water.

The boys were already at the rocks. I shouted out directions on where to find the footholds. They scampered and made their way up like little monkeys. I was next. I found the foothold. It was a little higher then it used to be. It was also considerably more work to heft this large frame up. Thankfully a tree had fallen just next to the falls so I had a vine to use to grasp onto. I am equally as thankful that it was a strong vine because lord have mercy did it take a lot of huffing and puffing and pulling and tugging. I did it though. The huffing and puffing and the view of my derriere must have scared my poor niece who was behind me because as I reached down to take her hand she waved her hand as if to say, no-no, and shuffled backwards in the water. Bailee is tentative about adventure and I was torn between urging her on because I wanted her to have fun and not forcing her to do something she was afraid to do. I asked it she was sure and when she said she was, I turned to back to the FALLS.

From the small slope where you climb up you have to make your way over 3 boulders and into a little pool. From there you have to make your way up a ledge to the spot where you can slide. I slid across the first boulder like Bo Duke sliding across the hood of the General Lee. The 2nd one I took with a little more caution. This was the place where in a moment of cockiness I didn’t respect the slipperiness and my tailbone still aches almost daily. After successfully scampering over the rocks I paused to evaluate the next stage (oh who am I kidding—I had to catch my breath). Years disappeared and I was 13 again and my eyes found the safe zones. I stayed how stretched out my leg until I found the small rough patch. It wasn’t pretty but I made it to the slide zone. WEEEE!!! Down the rock I went…bump-bump-bump. Splashing into the pool at the bottom was like being submerged in an ice bath. Holy—-my breath caught as I sputtered to the surface. “I still go it!” I thought making my way back round to do it all over again.

This time Bailee was waiting. She held out her little hand with her neon green fingernails and asked me where to step. I was tickled pink when she let me guide her across the rocks to the FALLS. She’s petite and tiny and the falls dwarfed her. I held my breath when we got there afraid she wouldn’t go. She’s tentative about adventure and she’s missed out on some fun—like snow skiing and waterskiing. I didn’t want her to miss out on this. “I’ll hold onto you the whole way,” I promised. She nodded-her little lips almost blue with cold. To my surprise she let me hoist her up and waited until I was beside her to coach her on. She found the little hidey-holes and made it all the way to the slide zone without once asking to turn back. When she slide down the rock into the waiting water I whopped with joy. I was even prouder when she turned and dog paddled right back to the side to do it all over again.

It has been many years and many pounds since I tackled the FALLS. I am proud to say that despite my size I still managed multiple trips down. My and my little chicks as my Aunt described. Another generation of cousins enjoying the lake just like I did years and years before. The highlight of the afternoon was watching Bailee enjoy the adventure right along with everyone else. And I was right there with them. I think I earned Cool Mom points and I know I earned Cool Aunt points.


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