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Finding Relief on the Water

It’s important to be close and comfortable with your family.


You want to feel as if you can say and do anything around. Well, almost anything. A few years ago at a Fourth of July celebration, I was tested as to how close you really want to be with your extended family.

Here in Minnesota, in this alternately frozen and humid land of 10,000 Lakes, much of our summers are spent on or near water.

It’s hard to meet a native Minnesotan who does not have access to either their own or a friend or family member’s cabin, river or lake home. Because we spend five to six months wearing sweatpants, Pajama Jeans, Forever Lazys, and/or large fleece tops (sometimes worn all at once), we love to be outdoors in the summer.

Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day, are essentially mandated to be spent lolling by or on a river, lake, stream or pond.  There are as many “family day on the water” traditions as there are bodies of water.

I love all of the aforementioned with the one addendum that, “A bathroom shall be within three minutes of all hilarity, frivolity and general hootenanny activity, at all times without exception.”

No one read my legal requirements that year at the Fourth of July Boat Parade.

The lake in question is lived on year round by most of the sixty residents. It is, like many lakes, a social place. A cul-de-sac on water, if you will.  The neighbors grill together, gather at one family’s elaborate outdoor Tiki bar on beautiful evenings, they play cards, they snowmobile to each other’s houses in the winter, and boat or kayak there in the summer. It’s good living, and the boat parade on the Fourth is a big deal. Every family gets an assignment and people and boats are adorned accordingly.

We had been invited to spend that Fourth with family who lived on the lake. We knew that our theme would be “construction” (don’t ask) and so we had helmets, neon orange vests, hammers, boots, you get the idea. I had worn what I felt was a festive outfit of white shorts, and a red, white and blue t-shirt (half the nation owns the same one from Old Navy).

I knew we would arrive, have a drink and some food, and then get on the decorated boat and wait our turn in line to be judged at the dock of that year’s parade judge. Then we would head to a beach party in front of another resident’s home.

What I didn’t know was that this process of waiting to be judged, would take hours. I mean hours. It is a relatively small lake. I figured we were looking at maybe an hour, tops, for getting in the line of boats, being judged, and then heading to the appointed beach for more drinks and fun. A beach attached to someone’s home. A home, which, no doubt, had a bathroom.

About two hours into the process, I realized that I needed to go to “powder my nose.”  My husband, who I also refer to as, “The Ambassador from Me to His Family,” was given the thankless task of asking if we could quickly head back to the house so I could use the facilities. All faces on board fell at the mention of this plan.

“But we’ll lose our place in line. We’ll have to go to the back.” Our hosts said this as kindly as they could, in the same way you might say, “This is the last helicopter out of Saigon, we’d hate to miss it.”

A forward-thinking family member blurted out, “Jump in! Pee in the lake!”

All looked towards me with pure joy at the brilliance of this notion. I, on the other hand, looked down at my white shorts, and said, “Um, I’m wearing shorts, not a bathing suit.” No one was fazed.

“Pee in your pants! Just go!” If I tell you that the assembled faux construction workers/family members ranged in age from 8 to 70, I would be telling the truth. Everyone was on board with the fact that I needed to go overboard. Now.

I frantically whispered to my husband, “For Pete’s sake, you mean to tell me I am supposed to leap into the lake, pee in my shorts, climb back on, and then proceed, wet shorts and all, on to the rest of the day?”

Ever a practical sort, my husband nodded sincerely, “Yup. Unless you want to hold it for another two hours or pee on the deck.”

Because my family crest is actually the motto, “Pee All Ye Who Must,” surrounded by yellow waves and a few dragons, I took a deep breath.

I jumped. I hadn’t counted, that once in the water, all eyes would continue to be on me. There was no “let’s give her some space to publically urinate.” No. Everyone sort of went the opposite direction and tried to make meaningful eye contact with me.

Have you ever tried to pee, while treading water, and also staring soulfully into the eyes of your in-laws? I thought not.

Heaving me back into the boat was not anyone’s idea of a glorious sight. At one point my husband and brother-in-law were yanking on the back of my shorts yelling, “One more time!” as they tried to pull me aboard like a weighty marlin.

The rest of the day is a blur. We were judged. We proceeded to the beach party, where my sopping wet shorts (and entire personage) were met with curious looks and long stories featuring the loud explanation that:


Good times.

You won’t be surprised to learn that now we live on a lake. I don’t have a lot of rules, but one of them is, “Anyone who needs the boat to turn around and go back to the house to use the bathroom, only has to ask!”

We’re pretty popular with guests, and we never try to make eye contact if they need some privacy.

Read more from Lucia Paul on her blog Dysfunctional Scrapbooking

Lucia Paul

Lucia Paul is a writer who has contributed to numerous online publications including the Erma Bombeck Writer’s website and, on topics ranging from the financial crisis to parenting teens. Her writing is in multiple anthologies including That’s Paris: Life, Love, and Sarcasm in the City of Light (2015), Motherhood May Cause Drowsiness-Stories by Sleepy Moms (2014), Not Your Mother's Book...on Home Improvement (2013), Not Your Mother's Book...on Being a Mom (2014). She blogs at Dysfunctional Scrapbooking. Find her on Twitter: @DFscrapbook

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Joan Stommen

Friday 11th of July 2014

Hilarious...I am sitting here alone laughing OUT LOUD! I have done this without a second thought.....usually had a suit on. But your delivery is so funny. "The last helicopter out of Saigon" punched my funny bone so hard the cat jumped off my lap and ran for dear life! Thanks for a great start to my morning! Going to share :)

Lucia P.

Monday 21st of July 2014

Thanks Joan! I really appreciate the great comment!


Thursday 10th of July 2014

Oh, girlfriend, I feel for you. I do. Just think about those tablets that turn your pee orange when you have a bladder infection, and the clear blue waters of the West Indies…and snorkelers…Yeah. I'm laughing in sympathy.

Lucia Paul

Thursday 10th of July 2014

Jenn, that is truly hilarious! Oh the snorkelers must have been alarmed!

Lucia Paul

Thursday 10th of July 2014

HAAAAA! Oh Jenn, that's really funny. I'm sure having it happen wasn't. They probably wanted to call for help.

Lucia P.

Thursday 10th of July 2014

Join the club!

Anne Parris

Thursday 10th of July 2014

Lucia, this sneaked up on me and punched me in the funny bone. Oh my goodness, what an experience!

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