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WOSTER: Spring into Oahe guarantees tradition continues

Terry Woster

Seriously, there have been years in my boating life when Nancy and I would be on the water and in the water no later than Mother's Day each spring.

I say that to contrast it with this year, when Father's Day weekend marked our first outing in our boat. Is that late? Well, it is for us, and it is for the boating season. Summer is officially here this week, for heaven's sake. It's a short season at best for those of us who don't have fully heated garages and who must rely on the weather being warm enough to keep the engine from freezing.

This has been quite a spring for potential engine freezing, by the way. In March sometime, I was thinking it might be about time to get the boat out and get it ready. The weather was warm, the snow had melted, the trees and shrubs were starting to perk up. Then things closed in on us, and it was the end of May before I trusted the forecasts enough to consider putting water in the engine again.

Well, then you come up with a weekend that has obligations, another weekend with weather that is above freezing but below comfortable. First thing you know, it's nearly summer, and you're getting set for your maiden voyage of the year.

I'm not complaining, mind you. The weekend was just grand. Two of the three kids got home, and it's always a good feeling to know they have enough good memories of the place they grew up to be willing to drag their own kids back for visits.

Two of the granddaughters were here, as well. One is getting set for a European choir tour before starting her senior year of high school. The other is enjoying every moment of the warm summer weather before she starts kindergarten in the fall. Together, they added the finishing touches to the weekend, and more than once I thought of how Nat King Cole used to sing, "You're the Cream in my Coffee.''

We'd had the 5-year-old the weekend before last while her parents handled obligations out of town. It was the first time the little one had stayed overnight with her grandma and grandpa without either of her parents.

I was apprehensive, of course. I always have visions of a young child sobbing her heart out with homesickness and two days to go before the parents show up again. Fortunately for me, and for the 5-year-old, Nancy is around, too. She seems impervious to irrational fears. I guess she wasn't raised by Marie Woster or something. Anyway, she just assumed things would turn out fine. They did, although the weather didn't cooperate enough that weekend for us to take our youngest grandchild out on the boat without her folks.

We did get her out both days this past weekend, and it was worth the wait. She had a blast, squirting water at us, digging in the sand, chasing toads around the beach. The joy on her face throughout the afternoons -- and the absolute peace of her face as she slept during the ride back to the dock -- was worth the price of owning a boat any day.

The high-school granddaughter and I created a tradition this year. A tradition for us is when you do something for a second time. It may not sound like a big deal to you, but we jumped in the water on Lake Oahe near Chantier Creek.

We did that last year the first time we were out, a couple weeks sooner than this year. It was frigid, a polar plunge without funny costumes or spectators. With the coolness of the recent spring this year, Oahe hasn't warmed nearly as much as I'd hoped. Even so, we agreed to jump. Ta-da. A tradition is born.

She went first. I asked how cold it was. She said it didn't matter, meaning: You have to go in, anyway, so why ask? She was right. I jumped. It was, uh, bracing. Cold? Why ask?

I told her it affirmed my place in the universe. It didn't, but the family weekend sure did.