If Eli was 16 or 17 instead of 8, I’d get him a jet ski for Christmas. It’s a two-fer gift idea, because I want one too.
I rediscovered my love for these fast machines this summer on a boat outing on the Connecticut River with Eli. He didn’t have a friend with him, so we spent the afternoon playing baseball and swimming off the back of our boat, pulled up on the sand at Sunset Beach. All the while, we watched a group of young boys on jet skis just off the shore. Their machines were fast, and the boys were reckless.
Turns out, I happened to be sitting next to their mom on the sand. She was clearly intoxicated, and struck up a conversation with me by telling me so. We got to talking, and I peppered her with questions and learned her family was from New York; my new friend was a corrections officer at Riker’s Island. “That’s why I need to get intoxicated,” she told me.
She nodded toward Eli, who was playing in the sand, and asked me if he had his own life vest.
“He does,” I said.
“Would he like to ride on a jet ski?” she asked.
“Sure, if I can drive,” I said. (No way was I letting Eli go off with those wild boys.)
I got a thumbs up, and Eli and I were thrilled with the unexpected as we hustled into our life vests. I put Eli on the seat in front of me, but I operated the throttle. It had been years since I’d been on a jet ski, and I was exhilarated with the pick-up of the machine and its capacity for speed.
“Grammy, slow down,” Eli hollered to me repeatedly over his shoulder, and I did each time, but, inevitably, I would accidentally accelerate again.
We headed south toward Brunelle’s Marina, and after a few minutes, I let Eli control the throttle. I thought having a bit of power at his disposal would help him to relax, but he was fixated on the speedometer, and each time we reached 20 miles-per-hour, Eli would cut the speed and slow down.
“Come on Eli,” I begged. “Let me open this thing up. Let’s see how fast it can go.” He did not agree, but he kept yelling, “Grammy, this is awesome,” and indeed it was.
As Eli drove and got comfortable in the role of captain, this was his continual refrain: “Grammy, this is awesome, right?”
Eventually, I got back to the matter of speed. “Please Eli, just let me open it up one time,” I said, wheedling.
“OK,” he said, giving up the throttle.
The wind was whipping our faces, and the sun was warm on our bodies. It doesn’t get any better than it was in those moments on the water. I waited for a few boats to pass, and I saw a straightaway clear of boats and waves. “Okay, here’s a good opportunity,” I told Eli, and I explained why. “Here we go.”
I applied pressure to the throttle with my right index finger. The increase in speed jostled us backward in our seats and was instantly intense. “Grammy,” he cried out. But he did not ask me to slow down. He called out the numbers on the speedometer as they rose, and when we got to 45, he said, “OK. Stop.” I stopped.
Back in our boat, and all night long, we did not stop talking about that ride. It was the best 15 minutes of our day and very likely the best surprise of summer.
In eight more years, Eli will be old enough to drive a jet ski. Then, we’ll get our own, and I’ll go out by myself and open it up!