Nov/Dec 2017The Christmas KayakBy Michael M. DeWitt Jr., Original art by Pam Corwin
"A luxury is anything a husband needs." - Anonymous
I hope you remember me and are doing well. I was the five-year-old to whom you bestowed a shiny new Swiss Army knife during that fateful Christmas of 1977. Of course, that marvelous gift was later confiscated by Momma - on December 26, to be exact - but that was not your fault.
I am sure that you have been keeping up with those naughty-or-nice background checks on everyone, but to save you time, let me assure you that I have been an especially good boy this calendar year, give or take the occasional "little white lie" to the boss when the bream are biting and the bobwhite quail are flying. I know I haven't written to you since I was seven years old, and I only troubled you then because there was a minor misunderstanding involving a prized farm turkey, a couple of inconveniently located kitchen windows and a high-velocity pellet gun. But I have since paid my debt to society and learned the error of my ways. It should put your mind at ease to know that I haven't shot any turkeys lately, despite my best efforts during spring gobbler season.
I know you are a busy man this time of year, so I will get right to the point. I have only one item on my Christmas wish list: my very own kayak. I can picture it now, all shiny-new, under the Christmas tree with a red-ribbon-tied bow and stern!
However, there is one obstacle between me and a kayak under the old Christmas bush, and this is why I am urgently imploring you for your assistance. Santa, I desperately want that kayak for Christmas, but my frugal bride thinks it's a waste of money. Now, I don't mean to put you smack dab in the middle of our debate, and I don't normally go over my wife's head like this to seek favors from higher powers, but I really, really have my heart set on this kayak. A two-man job. Hunter green. No, maybe royal blue so that I would blend in with the sky and sneak up on the fish better! Can you make it a sea-going kayak, and could you throw in a couple of extra paddles and rod holders as well, if that's in your budget?
My dear wife has even given me several concrete reasons why a Christmas kayak is a waste of time and money. She says:
- It will just sit in the garage and you will never use it.
- You've never even been in a kayak. You could drown yourself.
- Isn't that the thing that sits you right on top of the water? You will drown yourself.
- Do you know how many pairs of socks and underwear I could get you for the price of a kayak?
- Santa won't be able to get it down the chimney. (Ha, I'm not falling for that one. Last year she wanted a treadmill, and you got that in the house and assembled just fine, thanks to the aid of a certain good husband.)
True, I have never even sat in or on a kayak. I was raised in the inland Lowcountry and am more accustomed to canoes and clunky aluminum johnboats. But I am destined for exploration and recreation in the graceful beauty of a kayak. Every time I see a photo of someone paddling away in a kayak on the glossy pages of South Carolina Wildlife magazine, a tear of envy moistens my eye.
Something happened to me long ago, when Dad took me on those first fishing and hunting trips as a child, something powerful and wonderful that only gets stronger with passing time: I became a true, lifelong outdoorsman! I constantly yearn to be deep in the woods and wilds, or on the open water, with the breeze on my face and the sun warming my back and spirits. It's like there is something primal and instinctive inside me, pulled by the shifts in weather and moon and tide, that is tugging at my heart and soul in the most pleasing way that only an outdoor adventure can satisfy. You see, Santa, this kayak would be more to me than a mere boat, more than just another Christmas gift for a balding, paunchy guy possibly on the brink of a mid-life crisis. A kayak to me is a symbol, a sleek, elegant symbol of unbridled freedom, fun and nautical adventure, taking me - just inches above the water - closer to nature, closer to places I have only been before in my heart and in the land of dreams. And aren't those the best places of all? In this concrete, technological jungle of a world, aren't those the places we should preserve, cherish and seek out as often as we can?
I can just imagine the exciting father-and-son adventures my sons and I will have all over the great state of South Carolina. Oh, the places we will go, as Dr. Seuss would say! We can start small: maybe visit our local Lake Warren State Park for an afternoon outing. From there, perhaps we can cruise and fish our way down the mighty Savannah or drift along on the Edisto River, one of the longest free-flowing, blackwater river in the world. Who knows, perhaps we may even earn an Eagle Scout badge by tackling the challenge of the Swamp Fox Fifty-Mile Paddle and Camp Trail.
If it helps my cause, dear Claus, this kayak could also be an asset to me as an outdoor writer and photographer while I'm on assignment for South Carolina Wildlife. Imagine the exciting stories and breathtaking nature shots I could produce while sitting comfortably in my new vessel. And I happen to know a couple of magazine editors who secretly want a kayak of their own. Granting my Christmas wish could also help these deserving guys. They could turn to their wives and say, "Look, hon. DeWitt got a kayak. Why can't I have one? The poor dumb guy is going to need some company and guidance out there, you know, or he might drown himself."
I know you are a very busy man, sir, so I won't keep you any longer from your appointed rounds. The Mrs. may not quite understand me, Santa, but I know you do, old friend. You are the guy who so thoughtfully bestowed upon me on that fine Christmas morning of 1979 my very own Zebco 33 Classic, with that little plastic tackle box full of goodies! Oh, what a glorious day that was! So perhaps you can see fit to fulfill just one more of this lad's dreams and grant just one more magical Christmas.
Now, of course, we will have to get a second kayak later so my wife and my baby boy can join us on our outdoor excursions... but we can worry about all that next year.
Signed: Your biggest fan,
Do you think you could speak with Momma and ask her nicely if I can have my Swiss Army knife back? It has been forty years - I think I'm finally ready for it now.