>Wild Abandon

I was eleven years old. It was the first week of August. The old, blue station wagon had already been packed the night before with juice boxes and cheez-its. The “turtle”- remember those things?-was strapped onto the top of the car straining to retain our luggage. I always had trouble sleeping the night before we left for our annual trip to New Hampshire and that year was no different. I was already sitting straight up in my bed when my mother walked into my room at 4:30 a.m. to gently prod me into the car. Little did she know, my backpack was packed, I was dressed, and I even had my shoes on by 3:00. That year more than any year, I dreamed often of the cool, lake water lapping on the shore, up and over my knees. There was something healing about the water. Something magical. For whatever reason, I knew I had to feel that water, be immersed in it, drink it in, splash wildly in it as soon as possible. I began to tick off the calendar days until vacation.

That morning, at 3 a.m., I knew that I had to be ready. As soon as Bessie’s tires hit the sunlit dirt road at Lane’s End, I had to be prepared to meet the water’s edge. All obstacles needed to be removed. That was when I had the most brilliant idea. I would wear my bathing suit under my clothes. In the car. For the 6 hour drive. Just so I wouldn’t have to waste a fraction of a second getting to the one place I knew I belonged.
I don’t have to tell you how uncomfortable it can get, wearing a bathing suit underneath your clothing in a car with no air conditioning in August. I sweat profusely. The sweatier I got, the itchier my bathing suit became, the more I scratched, the more I irritated my skin, the more I sweat, and on and on in an endless 6 hour cycle. But as soon as we made that sharp, right hand turn next to the old, wooden sign with a duck painted smack in the middle I knew I had made the right decision. I told my mom to stop the car. I could barely make out the water’s edge, but it didn’t matter. I would run the rest of the way.
For the first time in my little kid life, and perhaps ever since, I knew what I needed and didn’t care how absolutely ridiculous I must have looked, running down the path, tearing off my clothes like Tarzan, grinning like an idiot. I had to get in the water. I kicked off my shoes on the way. My tank top and jean shorts scattered the sand. I ignored all the friendly greetings from friends. And dove. Head first. Into the cold, clear, beautiful water. With wild abandon.
It was entirely out of character for me, which makes it amusing that it is one of my most defining memories. I gave myself over to something without worrying- no, without caring about the consequences. I surrendered. I let go. I didn’t care how crazy everyone thought I was. How I must have looked picking up pieces of my clothing that had scattered along the pine trees from the wind. I never even had one, solitary wave of embarrassment, inadequacy or guilt. As I floated on my back, staring up into the sky, I knew that I had done something significant.
We’re going again, most likely at the same time, this year. Except, I’m older, with a husband, a full-time job, worries of mortgages and bills and borders and boundaries. I have the beginnings of crows feet. And I wouldn’t be caught dead in jean shorts. But, for all of it’s awkwardness, I just might wear my bathing suit underneath my sun dress. Searching for that one moment of liberation. The wild abandon.

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