Grateful for What Wasn’t by Eva Thomson

Eva Thomson, Founder of Thomson Financial, Northampton, Hampshire County resident and member of Straw Dog. Two years ago Eva sold her firm to younger professionals. Released from the relentless demands of entrepreneurship Eva is now nurturing the other half of her brain with words, art, movement, nature, quiet and beauty.

Grateful for What Wasn’t

As I climbed into the canoe, David, my boyfriend, shouted, “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” “Yes, we’ll be right back”. Reflecting on that day, twenty years ago, sends shivers through me. 

Spring often brings a winter melt, ballooning the Connecticut River beyond her narrow banks. David was hosting Easter dinner at his home on the river, but that day the beach and most of his backyard were under water.  

While dinner was cooking, everyone went out to play catch. Gusts of wind sent balls flying into the bloated river. David, athletic, jumped into a canoe with his young son to retrieve the first runaway ball. It looked easy so I went after the next one. Stepping into the canoe, David’s nephew Chase, a slip of a boy, with teeth that overtook his adorable 8-year old face, asked to come along. “Sure.” The river immediately snatched the little boat. I felt the cold water rushing against the thin metal dragging us further into the wildness. I paddled with all my might, knowing that if the current pulled us into the powerful channel we’d be swept away.

Chase sat at the bow like a little Buddha, serene, enjoying every moment of our adventure. Both of us eerily calm, Chase with joy, me with terror. My brain raced for an answer – how would I get us out of this pending disaster? As we swiftly moved toward the semi-submerged poplar grove, thick with trapped river wreckage, I prayed for the strength and agility to avoid hitting a tree. Funny the things we remember, the mess of branches and sticks looked like a gigantic, sloppy bird’s nest.

All the guests were gathered on the shore, helpless to do anything. Chase and I were on our own.

“Chase, I said, “we’re going to bang pretty hard into all that stuff, so hold on tight.” “OK”, he said, thrilled. Nature’s net not only slowed us, it held us! “Chase, try to grab some sticks if you can.” With his tiny, little boy hands, he held on to a bent branch, stabilizing the nose long enough for me to swing the canoe around, broadside. The driving water pinned us against the wall of debris. Both of us pulled with all we had, inching the canoe along until we finally reached shallow water. Shivering and cold, we jumped out of the canoe to everyone cheering. That is everyone but David and Chase’s dad, both deeply shaken. 

We never know how or when circumstances will conspire to change our path. David and I are married now. Chase is a Merchant Marine. Yet, if Chase hadn’t been so trusting and calm, we might have drowned that April afternoon. In these pandemic days, many of us are reflecting on all we have to be thankful for. I’m especially grateful for the tranquility of a little boy, long ago.