With sisters like mine, life's a beach - Diane Wagner

I didn't believe it but, this weekend, I saw the tape.

Ever since we came back from a family vacation on the Outer Banks (the week before the hurricane hit), my sisters have been teasing me about almost getting eaten. You know, humming the "Jaws" music, e-mailing stories about Great White attacks and smacking their lips when they see me. I was getting a little, well, fed up.

We had been sharing a beach house for about three days when I finally grabbed a boogie board and retreated into the Atlantic Ocean for 10 minutes or so of peace and quiet. Blind as a bat, I rounded out my sense of privacy by leaving my glasses on the blanket.

But I emerged from my soak to find all four of my sisters lined up along the shore, clapping. They told some fool story about a huge thing that swam up behind me in the water as they watched, but I shook it off.

Any two or more of us together is capable of making up a tale to freeze the marrow of another. Until she was four-and-a-half, my youngest sister believed she was born wearing the black Chatty Cathy tights she found in the toy box.

So I naturally assumed they were just creating another bit of family mythology, until this weekend when they showed the videotape.

There I am, relaxing on the board, and there IT is – some kind of flappy thing as big as my torso, arising out of the water next to me. My sisters' voices can be heard on the tape, full of loving concern.

"Eeuw, what the heck is that?" "Diane – Diane – oh, forget it. She can't hear without her glasses." "Do you think it has teeth?" "Look, look, it's sniffing her."

Examining the tape we decided it was probably a ray, as opposed to a shark or a piece of the Loch Ness Monster. It swam about two feet from me for a minute or so (an eternity as I watched the tape), but it will ever remain a mystery.

Just as it seemed we were going to get a good view of it, a rather heavyset gentleman in a bathing suit walked in front of the camera. By the time he had passed through the picture, it was gone.

Lest you think it odd that there is even this much confirmation of my brush with – whatever, I have to point out that my sisters are a pragmatic bunch.

Ellie, old "Baby Black Tights" herself, said they tried to call me in. But, when it was apparent that it would get me long before I could swim to safety, she ran for the video camera.

"I figured we might as well have something," she said.

I was never so proud.

Because that's the key to a wonderful life: making the most of what you have. I don't want my sisters to be little whiners, always wishing things were different than they are. Here's what you get, honey. Deal with it.

The whole thing reminded me of a fantasy book I read a long time ago, by Patricia McKillip I think.

A group of heroes were going off on a dangerous quest, but they stopped to ask the Wise Woman what they should do if they "journey to the Land of the Mists and find we cannot return?"

The Wise Woman knew. "Then," she said, "You go on from there."

And, if they ever make a movie of my life, I can't imagine a better ending than a big, fat bald guy in a Speedo strolling obliviously across the screen.

Diane Wagner covers county government for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or dwagner@henryherald.com.