When I was around 7 years old—the time I was learning to sail on my own—My dad thought that it would be okay if I watched Jaws with him. I’m not totally sure why he thought that a small child watching a movie about giant man-eating great white shark was going to work out just fine, but I’m sure it went something like this.
First the girl gets dragged around and then “drowns.” I can see my young self not being quite sure of what actually dragged her down. Then little Alex? I think, gets chomped up on his raft. Oh my, I didn’t swim with my legs dangling down through and inner tube for years. Yes, even in rivers because you never know.
I watched in silent terror, until Richard Dreyfus decided to go swim down (at night) and look at poor old fisherman Ben Gardner’s boat. I shrieked. It was then when my dad realized that having me watch this movie probably wasn’t the best idea (In his defense, it was originally rated PG).
I was convinced that some freak shark had made it’s way in from the ocean, to the Columbia River, and made a home in the Willamette River where I was learning to sail. Shear panic would overcome my little body every time I capsized the boat, leading to my expertise in performing a walk-over.
Up until two years ago, I had re-occurring shark dreams. They always involved me being down at the sailing club, on the docks, and then the dock breaking away from land. I would look down and see the massive gray shadows in the water, with Jaws himself popping up to finish off what’s left of my little wooden raft. The destruction of the docks and and my survival plan would only change ever so slightly.
In the end, I learned how to sail and I love the water. I even go swimming in the ocean now (with a floatie)! We’re making progress!!