My Personal Cheerleaders


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A frigid breeze whipped across my face. I, standing on the shore, stared out across a glacial lake of Homer, Alaska. As our tour guide informed us, that glacial lake sits in the mountains full of water that was previously part of a giant iceberg that continues to melt and feed the lake. Chunks of ice are left behind. Icebergs break up the glassy water just as stars stand out of the dark night sky. All of the family except my dad and older brother stood at the edge of the water watching as my dad and brother, the craziest of my family, with myself as the occasional addition, came out of the glacial lake water towards us looking like happy but clumsy children who just got off a long ride on the playground roundabout. Their smiles caused me to feel a twinge of guilt rise in my stomach. When my dad and brother try an experience unplanned and exciting, I tend to join them. I began to contemplate daring the dive. Before I could go too far down that road of possibility, fear numbed my thoughts until they faded and I listed off more reasons why I should not jump in.
Our tour guide stated, “Great job guys!” patting my dad on the back. He then asked, “Hey, did you know that in 20 years of doing this tour, no girl has ever gotten in?” I could hear the chattering of my dad and brothers’ teeth over the laughter of my family as they put their coats back on. “Oh really?” my dad asked as he looked at me with the look of optimistic encouragement I have seen numerous times before. My yearning to follow my dad’s encouragement and my wish to stay dry and comfortable pulled at each other. Just as an owner and her dog would play tug of war, my mind started to play the game of indecisiveness. Seeming to think that my desire to be comfortable would win out in the end, the dog owner goes into the fight with no intention of losing to a dog. However, once the dog has its jaws clamped onto the rope, there is no letting go. I could not hold back my desire to get in any longer. When I receive a challenge like that, I cannot resist. Staring at the glossy lake, I smiled my sudden spastic smile and whispered to my mom, standing next to me “I’ve gotta get in.” My mom turned to me, reflecting my own excitement and said, “Go for it, girl!”
Suddenly feeling excited and driven, I tore off my coat and shoes and extra shirt and right sock and left sock. It did not take long for the icy air to wash over my bare arms and feet and exposed face. As I walked to the water’s edge, I passed my older sister wrapped up in her jackets. She is one of my siblings who prefer the fun that involves winning a six hour monopoly game or practicing front flips on the trampoline. I seek out my brother when I need someone to go, as my sister would say, “the spontaneous route.” I spun around and was met with my brother’s smile and thumbs up. I took one step into the water, and my senses screamed disapproval. Shoving aside my human instinct to escape the cold by means of running or skipping or jumping and crying out, I could not help but love the painful sensation attacking my ankles and feet. As I stood, I felt the sharp water invade the warmth between my toes and I pushed every doubt out of my mind. When I dive, I push off of the hard ground and put my hands together over my head, being sure to have straight arms. I aim for the surface of the water at an angle, so I can gently glide under. I took a filling breath of crisp Alaskan air, then ran and without thinking, plunged under the satisfying, icy water. This was not stepping into a chilling wind that could penetrate layers of a down jacket and wool socks. This was biting off the top half of a popsicle and agonizingly leaving it in the mouth, unable to start chewing it for fear of dropping and losing the whole half to the dirty concrete below.
The second that I spent under the water, I was wrapped in a prickly, freezing blanket and although my skin was painfully frigid, I felt a fulfilling inner warmth. The reward of bravery, accomplishment, accompanied me through the water in the form of a brightening glow, heating me from the inside. As soon as my face broke the surface, another breeze gently blew past, lightly covering my frozen face with a warm touch. Before I could think, I found my legs moving myself towards the shore. It seemed just as logical and routine to my brain as moving from brushing the top row of teeth to brushing the bottom row. My automatic response, since I was so cold, was to get out of the water. My mom called out and held up her camera, “Wait! Swim to the iceberg!” Now feeling the freezing water weighing me down, my determination allowed me to swim farther out, towards the frosted ice-filled bean bag. As my hand reached the transparent surface, a tumultuous “CRACK!” distracted me from my freezing driven haste to the iceberg. I turned quickly, the dark water swirling around me, to see a crumbling iceberg, halfway across the lake. One eighth of it slid into the lake. Though the iceberg floated so far away, the sound was as close as if a taekwondo student kicked a board in half no more than a few inches from my ear.
Realization struck me, I had now been in the water for over a minute; consequently, my limbs started numbing as the cold continued to seep deeper into me. Just like the promise of buying a child ice cream is not easy to revoke, if I did not get out soon, I would not be easy to thaw. Hugging the iceberg and smiling my cheesiest smile for the camera, I no longer felt the sting of the cold. Hoping that it was my excitement that caused the cold to cease, I exited the water triumphantly with my inner warmth threatening to melt my icy frame. Glad that I took the dive, memories of feeling the same exhilaration engulfed my attention. I felt my stomach drop and heard the laughter of my brother in the seat next to mine as we plunged down what we called “the big drop” of the white roller coaster. I remember feeling power, excitement, and my dad’s arms around me as I fearlessly sped down the dirt road on a four wheeler triple my size. I felt the relief and peace of lifting my hands off the piano and listening to the final note of Debussy’s First Arabesque ring throughout the otherwise silent Bozarth Mansion, knowing my supportive family watched from the audience. Through every experience, my family has been beside me. Encouraging each other to be daring, my family and I show our love for one another. I exited the water soaking wet and thoroughly chilled; as a result, my family laid coats on my shoulders and hugs around my neck.
“Welp, I guess that’s a first,” said the tour guide.
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