Talk about life laughing back at you. Barely a week after extolling the virtues of gliding through life's waves with grace, I found myself screaming for help as I swam out to rescue my older daughter, who had been swept away to open sea from a sandbank by a sudden and ferocious rip tide in deceptively calm waters. Twice.
I've always been an excellent swimmer, but I never imagined my swimming skills would be put to the ultimate test - saving my own child. The second time, the current was merciless, and she, a good swimmer herself, was helpless against the waves. After what seemed like an eternity, I finally managed to swim against the current and grab her. An incredibly brave 19-year old Afrikaans boy named Oun had sensed there was trouble, and tried to reach my daughter too. He saw me and reached out to me, and although my throat was parched from swallowing too much sea water, and my limbs almost lifeless, I begged him to just get my daughter back to the shore. She had by then drifted ahead of us, but was being pushed towards the shore by the waves. I caught her and we both tried to throw her with the waves as they came, hoping her light weight would be an advantage. It was, and a surfer immediately came towards her with a surf board and she was fine.
I found out after that Oun had never swum in the sea before. Even in the most inhospitable waters, angels do float from above.
Meanwhile the waves had thrust me further away, and at this point I thought the best thing to do was to conserve my strength and simply let the wave take me wherever. So I lay back and waited calmly. And then my daughter started panicking, and screaming, thinking I was drowning, and that she'd lose me - even as I kept exhorting her not to look back.
My younger daughter, safe on the shore, was shell-shocked. She caught the anguish in our friends' screaming voices; she sensed the panic of the helpless crowd of onlookers. She couldn't see our heads above the giant waves, and her friend had told her her mother and sister were dead, that she had no family left. After it was all over, we huddled and cuddled for a bit of post-traumatic stress therapy. As if our four years in this country haven't been one extended post-traumatic stress syndrome already!
My little one said that if we had died, she would have been so sad because it meant her having to live with her dad without us. Sad. The truth is, as frightening as those waves were, my children swim in a far more vicious sea every single day: the sea of acrimony. The sea that sputters over, lamentably, with the salt and bile of someone who refuses to let go and move on, who prefers to remain adrift indefinitely, forgetting that the feel of sand that moulds itself beneath your feet can sometimes be the most unexpected blessing.
Oh, and that someone ain't me!
But you know, even at their young age, already my girls glide through life with grace.
Just pretend you never heard the screaming.