9th-12th Grade Prose Winner
Even with the great waves crashing against the rocks on the shore and the house shuddering with the wind everything seemed quiet. Growing up in the cacophony of eight million New Yorkers, the quiet felt unnatural. There was something about the vastness, the emptiness that was so alien to me, but at the same time, so captivating.
When I was seven years old, my parents took me on a summer vacation to Canada. We stayed in Nova Scotia, in a pretty little house near the ocean. For a little over a week we lived there and what struck me most was the peacefulness. Sometimes the tranquility scared me. Sometimes I was frightened sitting by myself at night, hearing no cars, no neighbors, only the wind and the sea. The emptiness made me uneasy as I stared at the road past our swing set for hours without seeing anyone go by. I felt small and alone gazing into a night sky full of more stars than I could imagine, or looking out onto a vast sea. I don’t think that even age can soothe these feelings of one’s own insignificance.
To a seven year old, all of these things seemed intimidating, but I necessarily trusted my parents’ judgment, and tried my best to take in nature and the serenity the way they did. My dad in particular seemed at peace amidst the roar of the ocean. I can’t say how big the waves really were, but what seemed to be colossal breakers didn’t faze him. He stood out among the elements, a solitary man amidst the strength of the wind and the sea, undaunted by the imposing will of nature. His composure and enjoyment of this great force gave me inspiration and faith to do my best to enjoy my unfamiliar surroundings.
I spent the majority of my time idly, reading Redwall books, or watching French “Sesame Street” on the sofa. I’d sit out on the swing set for a long time, vigilantly watching the roaring ocean, at the same time intimidated and enthralled by its might. The pinnacle of the trip was flying the toy helicopter my dad bought at a hobby shop in Halifax on the way up. It was called the Red Hawk, and it was about the length of my arm. On our last full day at the house, we drove out further to a beach, so as to avoid potentially losing the Red Hawk in the woods. This beach felt like it was the end of the world, without any homes, any trees, any life. It was light out, but the grey sky threatened a storm. As a child, and even to today, I’ve always been an anxious person. I worry much more than I should, about things that shouldn’t warrant such concern. As I’ve grown up, I think that I’ve learned to deal with my anxiety better; I’ve learned to be more rational about things that I cannot control, but can only try to contain. As a seven year old, I didn’t have this kind of self-control. I only had faith to keep me sane. Not faith in God, or in myself, but faith in my parents. I trusted them with my protection, with my survival; I trusted them to not only have my best interests at heart, but to know what was right in any given situation. I know now that such expectations are unreasonable, but as a child, it was unwavering faith in the judgment of my parents that gave me courage.
We were by ourselves at the beach save for a young couple wading farther out in the surf. We unloaded the Red Hawk from the car. Outside it was cold and damp, and I was excited. We placed the helicopter on the ground in the middle of the clearing, and its blades spun to life. After a week of peace and quiet in the little house by the sea, this bright red machine was a comforting reminder of the power and control of our species over nature. The little red helicopter looked out of place against the open sky and the expansive sea. It was so vivid and bright by itself, manmade and alone in the untouched landscape, but high above the world, itself untouched by the sea and the wind.
Because I was so young, my Dad decided he would start up the Red Hawk and get a feel for it before handing off the controls to me. It’s true that I was probably a little too young to be trusted with such a big, advanced piece of equipment, but we had stayed up the past few nights watching the instructional videos over and over, to make sure that we knew all of the intricacies of its operation. I felt confident that even though the wind looked rough and my hand-eye coordination wasn’t then what it is today, that I’d be able to fly the Red Hawk. More importantly, my dad was in control, and when he’d hand off the controls to me, he’d be there ready to help me if anything happened. He was in charge.
The Red Hawk was above us, and my dad had angled it out over the beach. As it flew through the sky, the sound of its whirring propeller overcame the perpetual roar of nature. I was seven years old and I was impatient. I begged my dad to give me a turn with the controls, but he was hesitant. He was worried that the Red Hawk was too low, that it was too close to the couple wading along the beach. I don’t know exactly what he thought might happen, that it would swoop down from the sky and hit them, but he didn’t want to risk my injuring them. He flew the Red Hawk higher and higher, and it started to drift further out over the sea.
As the Red Hawk flew up towards the heavens, the whir of its propeller was overcome by the sounds of the surf that it had previously drowned out. The roar of wind and sea was steady as the droning of the Red Hawk’s blades grew fainter. I watched it grow smaller and smaller, and I began to panic. I begged my dad to bring the Red Hawk back down, to bring it in from over the sea. I didn’t understand that the wind had taken it. I couldn’t understand that the wind had taken it, because my dad was standing there with the controls, trying hard to handle the unresponsive toy.
The Red Hawk disappeared out over the ocean. It was a little red speck in the sky, and then it was gone. The wind kept blowing and the waves kept churning. My dad looked upset and I felt stunned. We drove around for a while up and down the beach, looking for it. I don’t know why, but I was still hopeful. Hours later, sitting on the swing set back at the house I started to accept that it was gone. There was nothing anyone could do, not even my dad, to bring it back.