An afternoon at the lake

A shy, young family frolics in the water.

Robert Harbison / The Christian Science Monitor/ File
Reflections paint a pond at a Japanese water garden in Santa Barbara, Calif.

An interesting family of five caught our eye. They were young, energetic, full of life, and so attractive. My husband and I chuckled as we watched the three youngsters play. It was a warm spring day so they frolicked in the shallow water, splashing and running.

Their mother divided her time between playing in the water with them and admonishing them for their rambunctious behavior. It brought back memories of when our three children were small. It was tough to figure out if one of the young was the leader of the games or merely the instigator of trouble, and we identified wholly with that.

Their mother often stood at the edge of the water, seemingly unhappy with them. Either her offspring realized she was not really angry with them or they were simply willing to push the envelope and risk trying her patience because they ignored her completely. She would chase them and they would run in the opposite direction, darting just out of her reach. We shook our heads and laughed out loud knowing her frustration.

Always at a short distance from the action was their father. Perhaps he was preoccupied by the responsibilities and stress of his job or maybe it was his personality that kept him quietly a few yards away. He was far less animated but alert; he never joined in the fun but he watched and listened and seemed relaxed. The mother appeared to chastise her young, eventually chasing them out of the water and rounding them up.

But we wondered if the father had the last word. Indeed, he was the one who decided when it was time to leave. After an hour or so of sun and play, the family left together. We hoped we would see them again sometime. Watching them made us smile – they seemed so carefree and it was refreshing to see a young family spend time together like that.

In fact, we would have liked to introduce ourselves to such a handsome family and speak to them, but they seemed shy and didn't speak our language so we didn't approach them.

We think they waved good-bye, and they seemed to say "thank you" to us for sharing our pond by swishing their white tails as they wandered off, their hooves dancing through the brush.

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