It began at a party at Crystal Lake in Ellington about a month ago.
We arrived at the house, and the kids immediately raced toward the beach. The 6-year-old joined a bunch around her age and began leaping off a dock. The landing zone consisted of a soft bottom and about 3-feet of water.
Suddenly, the two other little bodies joined in.
"What the … ?"
It was the 2-year-old twins. After doing a double-take, the antics were amusing, beneficial to the quest of making them comfortable in the water and also a revelation.
The search for the most comfortable, practical and effective life jacket had ended.
Meet the Puddle Jumper, a product of the Stearns Co., now owned by Coleman. When you first look at the jacket, the thing just doesn't look right. Growing up with a marine division police officer for a dad and having a former inspector for a life jacket manufacturer as a mother-in-law taught me to be demanding when it comes to safety on the water. These things just do not look right. There is not much to them and there is no piece for the back of the neck.
In laymen's terms, it's two swimmies attached to a wide belt.
Burt the design works. When the toddlers were jumping off the dock, they went under, the Puddle Jumper drew them back up and sat them straight up like a channel marker.
On another occasion, the twins were hucking it off a friend's deck in Vernon, landing in her 4.5-foot-deep in-ground pool, floating to the top and staying in the proper position while they kicked back to the ladder.
On a recent vacation in North Carolina, thew twins were joined by triplets their age in a clubhouse kiddie pool. Me and the triplet's mom marveled at hoe the puddle jumpers made the morning stress-free in terms of watching the five.
The easy part was settling on the Puddle Jumper Deluxe, which retails for about $25.
The hard part was finding them.
At the very beginning of the summer, it was a feeding frenzy among parents to find these things. My wife, Rebecca, daughter of the life jacket inspector, found one and bought it.
We then had to find another after a cheap imitation was just not right. Meanwhile, every kid in every pool and at every beach seemed to have one.
So one day, she teamed up with Ellington-Somers Patch editor Erin Quinlan, who has a daughter slightly younger, to get two of them. They raided stores and kept in contact via text messaging - not while driving.
After striking out all over the area, they were finally able to buy them at Toys-R-Us.
Just the other day, the twins were in another above-ground pool in Vernon, floating, kicking and having a great time.
Dad took it all in with a smile. The Puddle Jumpers have made this swimming season one to truly enjoy.