By Merisa Sherman
I could tell she was a little nervous. You could see how small she made herself, her little arm wrapped around her mom’s leg as she peered around from the back. She wanted to be there and didn’t want to miss anything, but at the same time she wasn’t quite sure what she was getting into. She had never been here before and as far as she was concerned, Colton Pond was just the world’s biggest bathtub.
A painting of a sunset from the bow of the canoe hangs over the couch in her living room at her home in Canada, so you knew what it was. She just really hadn’t seen one before. And this sixteen and half foot one, to her little two year self, was a lot bigger than her. And it wasn’t in the water like canoes were supposed to be – it was upside down on top of a car. You could see her cock her head just slightly, trying to figure out if that was indeed a canoe on top of the car or if her Auntie Mer was just trying to trick her.
Then she watched as her uncle lifted the canoe off the car and carried it, over his head and towards the water. She backed up almost as fast as little legs can, Could it be that the canoe looked even bigger as it swallowed up her uncle’s head so she couldn’t see him anymore. What was going on?
As her uncle gently placed the canoe into the water, you saw her eyes finally accept that this was, indeed, a canoe like ones she had seen on her Canadian cartoon shows. It had the same shape and three bars that cross the canoe to hold it together. There were two seats, we counted, and it looked like there would be enough room for her, her mommy and Auntie Mer.
Being an expert skiing on the Magic Carpet, but never having touched a canoe before, the tiny toddler knelt down next to her mommy and slowly reached out her hand. She quickly pulled it back, nervous that maybe this was one of those things little kids aren’t supposed to touch. But with a quick smile from Mom, she reached out again and touched the gunnel with such reverence that we made the big decision.
With mom and I already in our life jackets, we prepped the tiny toddler for her first outing on the water. She was quiet as we zipped her up and attached the final strap between her legs. We let mom get in first, and then we lifted her up and across the water to put her down in the bow right in front of mom. And off we went, waving to Daddy, Uncle Aaron and baby brother on the shore.
There were tadpoles, and fish and frogs and birds and so many different things to look at … and of course, some Boat Snacks like in Moana! But what was even more fun? Telling mommy that she could paddle and literally taking the paddle out from her mom’s hands after just a few strokes together. So who paddled our canoe across the lake? While our little girl, of course. Kneeling in the bow so she could reach the water and do it all by herself. She’s two, remember.
And so we went along. A paddle that we were hoping would last at least five minutes took almost 45, as the little girl went through a combination paddling, looking for frogs and munching on her boat snacks. She didn’t wiggle, she stayed in the middle and not once did she make a jerky movement. Nor did she flinch when I rocked the canoe back and forth for fun. I coached canoeing for over 20 years, and I’ve never seen a little kid take to a canoe like this one.
Maybe because she’s half Canadian and it’s obviously in her blood, but this little girl had no interest in getting out of the boat. She wouldn’t take her life jacket off once we got on shore and certainly wanted to help carry all the paddles back to the car. It was amazing to see someone so young start on a lifetime adventure of loving a sport. She took her first glissé on the Magic Carpet this winter and now, she is the youngest member of the Killington Paddle Ladies.
There’s something magical about this place, where we celebrate nature in so many ways. Where we let our kids play in the woods and explore the world around them. Where even our littlest toddlers are paddling canoes and skiing all by themselves. What a beautiful world we live in – and to be reminded of that by seeing it through the eyes of a toddler for the first time. I cannot wait to see what she tries next!
Merisa Sherman is a long time Killington resident. You can follow her adventures on social media: @FemaleSkiBum.