If you ever wondered what face I would make while running towards the ocean, wearing a one-piece on the first day of 2014, wonder no more. I would make THIS face:
If that photo had a speech bubble it would read “Ohgodohgodohgodohgod! Whywhywhywhywhy? if I ran the other way do you think they’d notice?”
Perhaps I should back up a bit and explain the why of the one-piece and the ocean swimming on the first day of 2014. You see, it all began because I am almost exactly a decade younger than my sister–in-law, Christine. I am fond of reminding her of this fact at appropriate times. Like birthday cards, obviously, but also when we shop for face cream and she says she’s looking for something with anti-aging properties, and I laugh heartily and say, “I know nothing about that, Christine. For I am a decade younger than you.”
Or when she references some band, movie, or celebrity from the seventies and I am like, “Oh my gosh Christine, it’s like you’re talking gibberish! I’ve never heard of that band/movie/celebrity! That was a DECADE before I was born!”
And my all-time favourite, just slipping in subtle asides about my age at the time of her significant life events. For example, “Oh, you moved out of your house in 1989? I was SIX. Still believed in Santa. Just sayin’ ”
Anyway, a few years ago in between reminding her of the decade that yawns between us, I said something like, “Hey! When you turn 40 and I turn 30, we should do the Polar Bear swim!”
This is usually where the narrator says something like It seemed like a good idea at the time! but it didn’t.
I don’t know why that came out of my mouth, it just did, and then lay there between us flopping like a fish. All I can think of is that 30 and 40 seemed so far away that they may as well have been 80 and 90.
Me? Thirty? Sure! Let’s do the Polar Bear swim and then ride home in our hovercrafts. Make sure to tell your RoboButler to have the hot chocolate waiting!
But then here we are. She turned forty mid-December, I turned 30 on the 27th and good lord, she may be a decade older than me but Christine has a memory. She remembered the Polar Bear swim remark. And every time she brought it up I just kept staring at her and thinking, “Why? Why would anyone do that?”
Do you know what the Polar Bear swim is? Do they have this insanity where you live? It’s when a group of fools get together on January 1st and plunge their pale, tender, winter-cosseted bodies into a nearby frigid body of water. If you are wondering why, like I was, I have no idea. Still don’t.
Long story short, I agreed to do it. And, not to be outdone, Adam, Christine’s husband, her son, and Adam’s twin sister, Leigh all agreed too. So there we were. Five idiots freezing on a beach in January.
We arrived fifteen minutes before noon, which is when the swim was scheduled to take place. I spent those fifteen minutes productively, by nervously pacing, and dubiously eyeing the ocean in front of me.
Then all of a sudden the chanting began, “10! 9! 8! 7!”
Oh my god, was this really happening? Adam grabbed my hand and began pulling me towards the edge of the ocean.
“6! 5! 4! ”
I stood there in the throng of people, water lapping at my feet, shoulders tense.
“3! 2! 1!!!” A siren cut through the air, the throng surged forward, and guys, I followed.
I followed the rest of the idiots splashing through the frigid water, one foot ahead of the other and in three steps the ocean had sucked the flip flips right off my feet but I kept going further and further until the water was at my ankles and then my knees and then beginning to hit my belly.
I found myself running further and further with a giant shit-eating grin on my face. I was one of them! I was an idiot, too! And it felt pretty awesome.
I should tell you at this point that doing the swim was only the first of two goals I had that day.
The other was to do the swim just as much as Adam, so he would have no bragging rights. For all I knew, this would be the one and only time we decided to swim in January, so I needed to make sure that I didn’t have a lifetime of caveat-adding ahead of me. As in:
Me: Adam and I did the Polar Bear swim one year!
Adam: Well I did the swim. Madeleine did the Polar Bear Wade.
Me: *Instant spontaneous combustion*
So. As I was running through freezing water, an idiot amongst her people, I was mostly running after Adam. I was looking at exactly how far in he was getting so I could get JUST as far in.
Take a look at this photo:
Do you see us in the lower right hand corner? What are you seeing there is Adam standing and making his way back, and me, dunking myself in front of him so that I could say I had been in JUST as far as he had! In my mind I was like ‘Success!”
But look at his face. LOOK at that grin. That grin is saying, “Ha, Madeleine! Nice try.”
I should have known.
But I was too busy trying to remember what my toes felt like to notice the grin, and thus, sufficiently convinced that we had frozen our tender bits in the ocean in EQUAL amounts I turned tail and escaped the freezing waters, convinced that he was right behind me.
I was wrong.
While I was doing this:
He was doing this.
He stayed out there paddling around for about thirty seconds. And then after coming in to towel off, went in again! ARGH! Every time, EVERY TIME!
Anyway. Despite husbandly shenanigans, I am so proud that we went in! And surprisingly, it was lovely! I wasn’t really that cold, the only part of me that felt chilled afterwards was my feet because I had foolishly forgotten to bring socks.
The best part? After we got out and towelled the sand from our frozen toes, Christine and I looked at each other and vowed to do it every year.