Summer days can feel so endless, and then all of a sudden you blink and summer’s gone, replaced by binders and #2 pencils and alarm clocks. And we miss it so much, even the parts we weren’t sure about at the time. Maybe especially those parts.
July, 2014–I dangle a reluctant toe over the side of a boat, tugging at my ancient bathing suit, staring down at the clean but murky lake water. It should be idyllic; I should be there in there splashing with my son. He’s counting on me.
But I don’t want to jump.
The sun has gone behind the clouds and it’s just gray now. The “bear” part of White Bear Lake suddenly seems ominous (do bears swim?). The dangled toe is dipped, quickly; it’s cold! And I really don’t feel like getting my hair wet, truth be told.
Except. There is a boy next to me and he won’t go in unless I do. Because my husband’s not here (he of hearty Minnesota lake-swimming stock), so it’s on me. My son loves his fun extended family—all in the water—but today, I’m required.
I don’t want to, I really don’t, but he looks at me and issues the challenge: “We’ll hold hands and go in at the same time. You have to.” And he’s right, I have to. To prove I’m fun. To prove that the hair’s not the most important thing. To prove I can. To stretch myself and the ancient bathing suit a little further.
So on the count of three, I jump. He does not, he didn’t completely trust me. For one brief second it’s just me. But wait, he’s in now, he’s delighted and it’s sooo cold, and we’re treading water on top of this deep, dark canyon. A tangle of green weeds caresses my ankle for a minute and it’s a delightful shudder and my son performs cannonball after cannonball from the side of the boat, trying to land as close to me as possible without toppling me. Eventually I’m thrown a life vest so I can rest my head on it and float, see the blue-grey lake and sky and clouds all melding into one mighty Minnesota.
At last we are out of the boat; we shiver together under a shared towel and he turns to me and slyly says, “Now didn’t it feel good to do something you were afraid of? Aren’t you proud of yourself for doing it?”
The clever child has turned my own words back on me. The very ones I casually toss at him each time he’s thrown into a new and stressful situation. I understand, at that moment, that my words don’t mean a thing unless I walk the walk (or jump the jump) and I say, “Yes, it was scary. And it felt really good to jump.”
And that must be enough, because he smiles and lays his head on my lap and the sun comes out and everyone is still.
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