I checked off Number 2 on my bucket list on this New Year’s Morning, 2013. I took that BIG head first running face dive, no flop, into Lake Michigan and became the part of the notorious Polar Bear Club. There were hundreds and – this one here!
Jumping in our cold lake has been has been on my mind to do for years, but this year, I had few excuses. I’d long since checked off Number 1 on my bucket list (to have a daughter who was sugar and spice and everything nice). This month, January, that daughter would turn into an 18-year-old woman, I reminded myself. And, after nearly eleven months of searching, I was offered a dream high school teaching job. Welcome Back Yolanda! To boot, I was cleared for graduation this coming May, with as master’s degree from UW-Milwaukee. The start of the year looked new fresh and exciting. With a quick series of texts, I made sure my family and other friends knew about my impending Olympic style debut, and though my mother threatened to have me “certified,” I ignored her warnings of sickness and death.
Though I dressed for the weather, I also dressed to get in and out of my skivvies quickly. The beach was full – as was my figure – but I really did not give a hoot who saw me. Suddenly, I eyed my Mayor Barrett and his family checking out the crazies, I mean us people, some nearly nude on the frozen tundra. I began to walk toward where I might spot “Polar Bears,” counting my blessings and reflecting on many tumultuous, interesting, challenging years gone by with every crunchy, icy sandy step at Bradford Beach. I noticed a chaplain with a dog, right there among us. I asked him to pray for me (though I am not officially Catholic or anything) and he laid his hand on my shoulder and asked for God’s mercy upon my soul as I entered the frigid depths.
Fortunately the Polar Bears were now visible. I opened my praying eyes and the “Grand Poobah” of Polar Bears was a beacon. I was drawn to him. Gladly he took me under his paw, coaching me through it all. And hot dog, was it cold! Because the Polar Bear Club is a group of runners, I was charged to run into the water, and then run back out. But after standing on the ice for nearly 15 minutes (who knew about swimming shoes) waiting to run into the water in the first place – on my way out, all I could do was clod my frozen flat Fred Flintstone feet awkwardly through mushy chunks of frigid wet sand hunks sloshing between my toes – slowly, for I was frozen. I ran on the inside.
After I told my good friend Sue what I had done, she asked me, "What get's into you?" I told her, the things I can't get out of me.
You must see it to believe it…indeed.