Spontaneously we took the plunge

One New Year’s morning eight years ago, I woke up and decided I wanted to take the Polar Plunge.
My then 14-year old daughter Katherine offered to join me, which both surprised me and committed me to the event. The temperatures hovered around 0 as we rooted through the house for appropriate gear. Hampering our search was our clear realization that we had no idea what constituted appropriate gear for jumping into a frozen lake. We thought shoes might be a good idea.
Molly, then aged five, and Vinnie, aged 11, volunteered to be our wingmen and an extremely skeptical Vince agreed to be our driver.
If Katherine had second thoughts as we fought our way through the festive crowd to the opening someone had thoughtfully chopped intothe thick ice, she did not say. As it was my idea, I plastered a giant grin on my face and pretended not to be scared. This façade came in handy when I heard my name called out over the din.
A colleague waved cheerfully from the pier. Until that moment it had not occurred to me that anyone I knew would see me flailing though the icy water in my swim suit.
Worse, I spied photographers.
Adrenalin propelled us forward and we ran into the water. Not too bad, I thought, and I stupidly dove under. For just a moment there under the water, safely hidden from the paparazzi, I thought I was going to die. My brain stopped communicating with the rest of my body and my limbs would not move. I might have stayed lodged there until spring had not my maternal instincts finally kick in. “Must. Save. Katherine,” I thought as I struggled to my feet. This is how I remember it anyway.
Photographs of the event tell another story, one far less heroic. The truth is my skinny 14-year old daughter dragged me out of the icy water that day and into the blessed arms of little Vinnie, who stood at the edge of the water with a big blanket for us.
I have not once since that morning awoken with an urge to jump into icy water, but I don’t regret our plunge. It taught me two valuable life lessons:
1) That skinny 14-year old is stronger than she looks
2) It’s not the size of the wingmen that matters, it’s the size of their heart (and the blanket they hold).
Here’s our before shot. We weren’t sure we would survive.
Photographic evidence of Katherine yanking me out of
the water. She is being helped by then Appleton Post-Crescent
City Editor Bernie Peterson, who sent me this photo.
That’s Molly in the front wearing my coat.
We were thrilled to see them on the shore
as we emerged.
This is a hilarious shot of us being interviewed following the big plunge.
Note the gentleman walking on the ice behind us.

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