“Go Jump in a Lake”- A Summer Story

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.

July 2014, Minnesota
July 2014, Minnesota

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.

Cannonball!
Cannonball!

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.

(Want to read more stories like this one? Subscribe to my blog on the front page of dreadfullybusy.com, follow me on twitter @dreadfullybusy or like my Facebook page, Kristin O’Keefe, Writer. Or, just sit back and read. That’s pretty awesome too.)

Author: Kristin O'Keefe

Kristin O’Keefe has bartended in Scotland, written speeches for college presidents, and led communications & marketing for an economic development organization. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, McSweeney's, Barrelhouse, Your Teen, Grown and Flown, and Scary Mommy. Find her on Twitter @_KristinOKeefe and Facebook at Kristin O'Keefe, writer.

19 thoughts on ““Go Jump in a Lake”- A Summer Story

  1. Terry Bierbaum says:

    Love this story!! So beautifully written. Made me smile especially when Charlie came back with his loving comment!! Mom’s are teaching their children all the time and our kids are teaching us too!! Hugs

    Reply
  2. Kristin O'Keefe says:

    Thanks Terry! I thought you’d enjoy as you were one of our witnesses. And it’s true. Teaching goes both ways. And so does fun!

    Reply
  3. K.C. Regan says:

    I loved reading this. I felt like I was lakeside in MN debating a swim – makes me wanna go there.

    Reply
  4. Elise Lipoff Mayer says:

    I loved this – so beautifully written – I could imagine myself there. Reminded me of ziplining this summer in the Berkshires – I was terrified!!

    Reply
  5. Sarah Jones says:

    I’ve been dreadfully busy; way too busy to read your blog. But I certainly enjoyed it! As a Midwesterner at heart, reading this vignette really felt lovely. Thanks!

    Reply
  6. Colleen says:

    Life is really about these little moments. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    1. Kristin O'Keefe says:

      Absolutely, I agree about the moments. If you can, go see the movie Boyhood. It tells the story of those moments (good and bad) so beautifully.

      Reply
  7. Kathryn Leonhardt says:

    Loved this piece! I am still a Minnesota girl at heart. My siblings and I learned to swim in Dead Coon Lake, along with all the other kids in town.

    Reply
  8. mom says:

    I loved, honey, and am proud of you both. We do teach more by what we do than how many times we say it.

    Reply
  9. Elizabeth Gill says:

    I love your writing, Kristin! Good for us you decided to tape up the van and write your stories on life and such- joy to read, indeed!

    Reply
  10. Darlene Campbell says:

    Hey Kristin, swimsuits are on sale now. ha ha I would’ve been afraid …of how I look in a swimsuit and of jumping in. EEK!

    Reply
    1. Kristin O'Keefe says:

      I’m not a swimsuit fan, though I can sit by a beach/poo/lake for hours and read, write, nap. The actual jumping in part? Not my favorite! but fun with the kids.

      Reply

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