Rite of Passage

At the house where Martie and Coach now live is a creek that we used to play in as kids. All of us, Brother Bear, Brother Boo, Martie and I, spent countless hours in that creek, boating, fishing, swimming, bathing, frog gigging. Yes, bathing, even though the cows peeing in the water upstream likely rendered our shiny clean hair less clean. That’s how life in the country works, and if that means we can’t be friends, just remember that you have eaten insect legs and rat hairs (it’s in your chocolate – true story – www.FDA.gov).



While we all spent countless hours in that water, the boys were always far more adventurous than the girls when it came to creek swimming. Martie and I climbed down the dock steps to tentatively feel around in the icy water before committing to a full dunk, but the boys took turns swinging off the rope tied to the tree and jumping off the abandoned bridge that covers the water. The wimpy boys jumped from the bridge itself and the brave boys jumped from the top railing, over and over again, never really swimming more than the few strokes it took to reach the bank and start all over again. I don’t remember any wimpy boys, they were all brave, and I certainly don’t remember any wimpy or brave girls. We girls liked our dock steps just fine, thank you very much, and our floats and our tentative full dunks.

Cuzz, Brother Bear, & Brother Boo jumping backwards off the bridge

Cuz, Brother Bear, & Brother Boo jumping backwards off the bridge

Actually, we liked it just fine until one day Martie got a raging wild jealous hair and decided that she was coming off that rope swing, just like the boys. Not the bridge, mind you, but the rope swing which was just as scary because if you didn’t let go of the rope in time, you’d come back to shore and smack into the tree. Plus it was kind of high above the water and you were in full swing and letting go was the hardest part because you couldn’t see what you were falling into. Martie set her mind to it, though, and expressed her intentions and Brother Bear was all in. “I’ll help you,” he said, “whenever you are ready.”

“I’m ready now,” she said, and then marched down to the creek, swimmy suit on, creek shoes tied, chin set determinedly. She clamped her hands on the rope, stepped back to get a good swing, and then faltered. For forty-five minutes. Brother Boo and I were in the creek already waiting for her to leap in. I mean, we were waiting but then we got bored so we got out and then got back in and then Brother Boo jumped off the bridge a few times and then we had a snack. Brother Bear never left Martie’s side despite the temptation of the bridge jumping and the snack having. He never walked away from encouraging her. He stood there the whole 45 minutes until Martie finally said, “screw it” and swung in. (She didn’t really say “screw it” because in our house you didn’t say words like “screw it.” You also didn’t say “shut up” or “yeah” because “shut up” got you a mouthful of soap and “yeah” instead of “yes” got you ignored.) She came barreling up out of that water with her eyes shining and pride just blazing out of her. Actually she cried for a minute when she came out of that water but after that she was a total peacock.

Bridge and rail

Bridge and rail

That rope swing is no longer there as the tree is no longer there. It died and got swept away or cut down after we all left home. The dock remains, though, as does the bridge, and this year when Brother Bear and his family came for a visit, the whole family crew built a zip line. There’s a bicycle handlebar and lot of steel cable and more bravery than I’ve ever possessed to take you from the top of the bridge to the middle of the creek.   (I still like the dock steps and the tentative full dunk, thank you very much.) Brother Bear’s kids were all over the zip line, all over the bridge both top and bottom, back and forth, drop in, get out, do it again, and Martie’s kids watched from the side lines on the dock steps as they tentatively full dunked. They were just fine with that, thank you very much.

Rigging the zip line

Rigging the zip line

Until they weren’t. Tigger, having watched all the fun for the better part of the day and getting a raging wild jealous hair, expressed her intention of riding that zip line and jumping off that bridge, just like everyone else. “I’m ready now,” she stated and then marched over to the bridge, swimmy suit on, creek shoes secure, chin set determinedly. She was in; we were in; everyone was in. Tigger’s daddy, Coach, jumped in first to wait for her at the bottom. Martie waded into the water from the dock steps and waited for her at the far end of the creek. The family and friends we’d invited over crowded around on the bridge, everyone encouraging with anticipation.

Zip line

Zip line

Tigger stepped to the edge of the bridge, clamped her nose shut and faltered. I sat down next to her, dangling my feet over the edge, and we waited. Tigger put her hand on my shoulder, clamped her nose shut, and again faltered. This will not surprise you, but Brother Bear never left her side. He and his lovely wife Shell stood next to her the whole time she wavered, camera sitting on go, just waiting for her to let go. We all waited. For thirty minutes. (Poor Coach – do you know how cold that water is? One other word we are not allowed to say in that house: “shrinkage.”)

I was looking off down the creek at Martie when I felt Tigger’s hand leave my shoulder. She didn’t make a peep. Just let go of my shoulder, held her nose, and stepped off the edge, easy as you please. The hollers and whoops from those of us on the bridge were deafening, and I have to be honest, I got all choked up. Tigger came barreling up out of that water with her eyes shining and pride just blazing out of her. Actually she cried for a minute when she came out of that water but after that she was a total peacock. Shell captured it, and its just gorgeous. See for yourselves.


Don’t wish you were that brave? To just stand on the edge of your fear, look it full in the depths and let go? I want that. I think I’m going to try it.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anne
    Jul 21, 2015 @ 09:01:43

    That’s a great story, delightfully told. I knew about the zip line, but you put it in historical and biographical context, brought it alive, an made me laugh! You really are an exceptional writer of warm hearted, funny stuff. XO


  2. Martie
    Jul 21, 2015 @ 10:52:47

    LOVE this story, just as you told it!! It’s perfect! I laughed and cried at the same time! 🙂


  3. Michelle
    Jul 21, 2015 @ 11:20:03

    Beautifully written !! And just like I remember it! It really was a great day full of brave fear crushing moments! Maybe your day is coming soon! 😘


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