Iris referred to it as "Wapato Park," which sounded wonderfully native american to me. From it's description, it must be a beautiful location—a large waterfront with lots of trees, a kids' water area with plenty of kid-safe water stuffs, tons of ducks and geese, two playgrounds, picnic tables, benches, docks, gardens, and plenty of natural plant life abounding.
With the kids all suited up and the GPS programmed, we took off for the park. It was not really a sunny day, but it didn't seem too bad. When the GPS chirped that we had arrived, I was ready for the girls to have some fun. We surveyed the park: the waterfront looked nice enough; tons of gardens as promised. I could see the docks in the distance, and there appeared to be a playground on the other side of the docks, but it was obscured by plenty of good-ol Washington-style greenery. And it was no lie about the geese and the ducks—they were EVERYWHERE!
The playground seemed a natural target for the beginning of our fun, so we went there. There were lily pads floating in the water about ten feet from the shore near the playground. I kept looking for all the kid-safe water toys, but I couldn't find them. The girls were content on the playground for about five minutes—they came to swim after all!
Quickly, the place to be was observing the lily pads from the shore. Then the shore became, a few steps in: just enough to cover the flip flops. Then, the flip flops came off, and they were in up to the ankles, then their knees...do you see a trend here? Sure enough, in just a few minutes, I was the dad sitting on the shore with flip flops and pants strewn about me gazing on, watching my girls frolic in the water and enjoying the natural beauty of Washington. It was a Kodak moment. Had I remembered my camera, it would have been a real Kodak moment. But no matter, God gave me a brain and I was straining to etch this memory in as this huddle of local moms surrounded me, looking on concerned.
"Are you just gonna let them go in the water?" one mom asked. Now, I'm no expert, but that sounded to me like the type of condescending statement that usually precedes really bad information. What could it be? I wondered. Were their sharks in the water? Was this some sort of marine rehabilitation area that my children were destroying? June had already harvested three lily pads. Maybe there was some ordinance about having children in the water? I don't know. Local customs can be strange to outsiders.
So, like a true unabashed father, confident in my parenting skills, I responded, "Yeah." (I prefer arrogant parenting to no parenting.)
"Well, don't be surprised if they itch like crazy tomorrow. Whole lake's infested with this terrible bacteria that causes ya to itch all over. They call it 'swimmer's itch,' I think. Terrible itch. Real bad for the first day or two, ya know."
I became conscious that my eyes were extremely wide, and my mouth was hanging open a little. I found my head leaning a little to the left, and I was blinking more than I usually do. When it seemed like it was my turn to defend myself from the accusation that I was neglecting my fathering responsibilities, I stuttered out that I thought they would be okay. I was trying to fathom something intelligent to lie like: "Oh no, ha! My kids have on the new G20 swimmer's itch block. As if I would allow my children to play in infested waters without protecting them." Of course such a competent lie could only be fabricated on the fly by a true professional, and sadly, I've not been practicing.
They other parents, their warning given, retreated to watch their own children; now that the newcomer had been warned. They were of course, looking over their shoulder to see what I would do with this information. And I did what any inlander father would do. I gave one of those GQ smiles as I looked over my shoulder—this is important to distract onlookers, from the phone quickly being produced from my pocket. I flipped it open and Googled, "Swimmer's Itch."
"Swimmer's itch, also called cercarial dermatitis, appears as a skin rash caused by an allergic reaction to certain parasites that infect some birds and mammals. These microscopic parasites are released from infected snails into fresh and salt water (such as lakes, ponds, and oceans). While the parasite's preferred host is the specific bird or mammal, if the parasite comes into contact with a swimmer, it burrows into the skin causing an allergic reaction and rash. Swimmer's itch is found throughout the world and is more frequent during summer months."
That was enough for me. I retrieved my children, pride aside. I escaped to a nearby public restroom and attempted to wash my children's legs in a water-restricted sink. It was one of those press-down faucet jobbies. The one's that give you water for like three seconds—you know the type. I won't go into the contorting experience of washing children's legs in a sink under that faucet.
After they were rinsed, we b-lined for the house to get into a bath. Everyone washed with lots of anti-bacterial soap, and we're currently praying they don't get any itchy symptoms. We'll see how well it goes over.
Morals of this story: 1) No more "hot tips" from unvetted sources. 2) People should post signs for things like swimmer's itch. Stupid people need to be warned! 3) Arrogant parenting is better than no parenting, but humble parenting is best.