A Cold Initiation

The bright sun and sapphire sky belie the frightful cold waiting just beneath my feet, dangling and swinging so daringly over the placid, blue-black lake. My bathing suit, appealing in the fluorescent lights of the department store, now itches and rides up. I tug at the straps, which seem to want to twist no matter what, and I venture a long glance down the length of the cold, damp dock. Who else’s mother, nervous as the swimming season approaches at the community beach, has dropped them at swimming lessons on this chilly June morning?

The thick, green leaves lining the shore shake and shimmy in their breezy tango. An adventurous leaf breaks free from its branch, falling into the water, small ripples circling out as it gently spins on the surface. Above, a blue jay slashes the calm of the morning, chasing a hawk from its nest with a commotion of shrill cries, relentless in protection of its babies.

“I dare you,” someone whispers next to me. I see Ginny Sawyer wearing the same suit as me, only blue instead of purple, her straps laying flat. “I dare you to jump in.”

I dip the tip of my big toe in the water, goosebumps racing up my leg, across my skin, up my shoulders. I shiver. I look at Ginny, waiting in her toothy-grin and mischievous eyes.

“No.” I wrap my arms around myself.

Our instructor, on shore in sweatpants, coffee in hand, is ready to begin. She brings her whistle to her lips, and blows. Long, low groans escape from deep within us all on the dock, each bemoaning our vigilant and over-protective mothers, who sit comfortably in their heated sedans.

The whistle again. A foot on my shoulder, sending me in.

Summer initiation in Maine.

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