Parasailing with my Daughter
Lisa Williams Kline is the author of ONE WEEK OF YOU (Blue Crow Books 2019) and many other novels for young people. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina.
We stood in line at the parasailing window.
“Singles or tandems?” the ticket taker said.
My daughter, Caitlin, who was leaving for college the next week, said, “I want to go by myself!”
I’d been hoping she’d go with me. Since I’ve become a mother I’ve developed a fear of heights. On a recent family vacation I was unable to walk out onto the Golden Gate Bridge, and I have tried to plaster myself against the wall on the observation platforms at most of North Carolina’s lighthouses, especially the creaky ones.
“I really want to go alone,” Caitlin said. I told her she could. After all, she was going to college. We’d packed up her stuff and her room already looked bare, with a jangling collection of empty hangers in the closet. There was a strikingly clean surface on the top of her dresser, which until a few days ago stayed cluttered with notes, pictures of friends and lead singers, earrings, hair ties, and free samples of perfume and make-up. In only a week she was going to be making her own decisions, setting her own boundaries. She wouldn’t have me there to help her in college, so she might as well be on her own with this flying through the clouds thing.
Which, of course, meant that I would have to go alone, too.
We piled into the boat with another family and motored a ways out into the sound. The sun bounced off the water, the boat rocked, and the waves gently slapped its sides. Caitlin’s face bloomed with high color from excitement and I was determined not to ruin it with my fear.
“Who wants to go first?” the boat captain asked.
“Me!” Caitlin said. “I’m a single.”
“With the wind out there today you’re too small to go single,” said the captain. “We need you to go tandem. We need more weight. Is there anyone here who will go with you?”
I was silent. Of course I was willing to go with her, but she wanted to go alone.
Caitlin hesitated, her disappointment written on her face. Was it better for her to go with a stranger than with me?
“I’ll go with my mom,” Caitlin said.
“Great,” said the captain.
Together we put on life vests and the crew strapped us into the tight heavy harnesses. The captain hit the gas and we sailed up into the air so smoothly we almost didn’t notice it had happened. The bay and the boat and the water and the waves and the houses shrank smaller and smaller and sparkled in the sun. The warm summer sky wrapped around us, blue and cloudless.
I thought parasailing would be loud, with roaring wind and a helpless sense of speeding breakneck through the air. I had thought my heart would be in my throat and that flying along up there at nine hundred feet would make me weak with fear.
But instead it was silent, peaceful, almost surreal. The water, which had been choppy with whitecaps, looked perfectly smooth from up there. I looked over at Caitlin, and her expression was fearless and expectant as she surveyed the dazzling landscape before us.
“This is great, Mom,” she said.
“It sure is, sweetie,” I said, reaching for her hand. “Thanks for coming with me. I was kind of scared.”
“I know you were,” she said. “But see? It’s fine. It’s going to be fine.”
We were so high, we could see the gentle curve of the horizon.