By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
Last Saturday was one of those ideal summer days – until it wasn’t. It was a bright, 92-degree day with sunshine that practically screamed “Go jump in the lake!” So we did. With everyone fastened securely in lifejackets, we puttered out to the middle of the lake in a pontoon boat. Then we untangled the tow rope so the kids could get their first taste of a great summer tradition – hanging on to an inner tube for dear life while a boat pulls you entirely too fast across the lake. Ah, summer!
I climbed onto the inner tube with our 5-year-old on one side of me and our 7-year-old on the other. Being inner tubing novices, we took it pretty easy and cruised along behind the boat at a moderate pace. Every now and then a bigger, faster boat would pass us and we’d get a few fun waves to bounce around on. Over the roar of the boat engine, I heard my 7-year-old yell “I want to do this again tomorrow!” It was a little boys’ nirvana.
Between tubing sessions, we anchored the pontoon boat, swam around and took turns jumping off the inner tube. We only stopped once to eat a few snacks, and then we went right back for more fun in the sun. It was all going so well until… I felt something.
It was nearly four in the afternoon – much later than I realized. I felt a certain, familiar sensation I haven’t felt since I was a reckless teenager. It was a stinging, prickly feeling that began timidly in the back of my knees and crept up more intensely until it reached my waist. I called out to Tom, who was floating a few feet away from me.
“Hey, do the back of my legs look like they’re getting sunburned?” I asked.
His short reply confirmed the worst: “Uh-oh.”
But it was so much worse than “uh-oh.” It’s more like “Oh, no! What have I done, and when will this infernal burning sensation ever end?”
I know what you’re thinking. I can practically hear it already. “How in the world does a thirty-something mother of three who ought to know better fail to apply sunscreen when she’s spending hours at the lake.” And the answer to that question is this: I did, in fact, remember to apply sunscreen. I spent nearly half an hour lubing up each kid, being careful to cover every inch of them with SPF 70 sunscreen. Once they were protected, I started slathering it on myself. I remember rubbing my arms, my shoulders, the tops of my feet, my face. I even asked Tom to put two coats onto my back.
But then one of the kids asked for some chips or a juice box or something like that, and I got distracted. I never resumed sunscreen application and therefore forgot to rub lotion on that important last spot – the back of my legs. Ordinarily, forgetting the back of one’s legs might not be too tragic – unless of course you’re spending hours riding on an inner tube while lying on your stomach with nothing between the raging hot sun and your wintry pale legs.
We headed for home shortly after we discovered my fate was sealed. When the water from the shower hit my legs, I wanted to scream. Each droplet felt like a needle shoving into my skin. When I got out of the shower, I realized my misery had good company. Tom had been so preoccupied with getting the inner tube hooked up, watching the kids swim and driving the boat all day that he forgot to put sunscreen on his back and shoulders, which fried to nearly the same shade of red as the back of my legs.
We have spent much of the last 48 hours sharing a bottle of ibuprofen and taking turns rubbing lotion gingerly into the vast patches of red skin. My legs still feel like two slices of skillet-fried bologna that curls up at the edges in an attempt to escape the sizzling heat. I cannot move or even sit down without wincing from the pain. Tom and I agree that perhaps this experience offers a faint hint of what hell must be like – a perpetual, screaming sunburn with no aloe vera in sight. I shudder to think.
What I definitely will think about is doing a much more thorough job of sunscreen application from now on. I’ll cover myself as well as I covered the kids. Because forgetting even one key area can turn into a literal pain in the rear.