By Rikki Dubois

As I write this, it’s April 2014 in Winnipeg. I look out the window and I see…. snow. The winter of 2013-2014 has been a very harsh winter. It has been the coldest winter since 1898 and has had the most snow since then as well.

At a time when we should be thinking of blooming flowers and budding trees, my mind takes me to summer. Sweet summer, a time where we visit beaches and play in swimming pools. It has been a long time since I’ve been to a beach. And I don’t know all of them in Manitoba, but I do know a few.

When I was a child, I was scared of water. Maybe it was because I was never exposed to it that much. Except for the Saturday night bath. Back then, we only had a Saturday night bath.

One day, my aunt, decided she would do a nice thing for my brother and I. She signed us up for swimming lessons at the local YMCA. My brother took to it like a fish. Me, not so much. I was scared of the water, and if any of you remember the swimming lessons of the 1960s, it was different than it is today. They had us standing on the edge of the pool and we had to jump in even if the water was above our heads. Today, they let the children wade into it and slowly immersed her heads, before they are made to swim in deeper areas.

Needless to say, I did not fare very well in my swimming lessons. I also did not like the dressing rooms. Probably because I had to use the boys’ dressing room, and that made me very uncomfortable. So, I skipped a lot of lessons. As long as my Mom didn’t catch me, I was fine. But on those days where I was forced to go, I would try to stay at the back of the line. I kind of hoped the lesson would be over before I got to the front of the line.

After that, I pretty much stayed out of the water, unless it was at the beach where I could stand in the water no deeper than waist high. As a child, my Dad liked taking us to beaches, so I was okay playing in the water. I’m not sure which beaches we went to; we just got in the car and then we would be at the beach.

When I was 14 years old, my family started camping out on some land in St Malo that belonged to my Dad’s uncle. The lot we camped on had a river running up one side and down the other. On the one side, the water could be over our heads while on the other side it was very shallow. So when we wanted to go in the water, we tended to go on the shallow side. With time, we would start walking from the shallow side and go into the deep site. This walking from shallow to deep was how I learned to swim.

So, now I’m a swimmer. Not in your classic sense, though. Anybody who has taken swimming lessons will tell you that I’m not a swimmer, but I can save myself, so that’s what’s important. I learned at a very opportune time; at a time when I started going to beaches with friends. It would be kind of embarrassing going to the beach and be the only adult standing in three feet of water. But I did go, and I did well. St Malo beach was the one we went to mostly, mainly because our camp was close by.

When I graduated high school in 1979, the group of us decided to go to West Hawk Beach for a weekend of camping and swimming. So Friday night, we set up camp and spent the night just having a good time, celebrating our graduation. The next morning, some of us decided to go swimming at the beach. When we got there, I realized that this was one of the beaches my Dad took us to when I was a child. So it was kind of neat being someplace I had already been. For those not familiar with West Hawk Beach, there is a dock a short distance away from the shore. The game is to swim to the dock, climb upon it, and then dive into the water. Well, in 1979, it was another long winter, and I was told that there was still ice on the lake two weeks before we went there. But being “a swimmer” I jumped in with everyone else and swam to the dock. I couldn’t climb out of the water fast enough. It was co-o-o-ld. Now I’m standing on the dock wondering how I’m going to get back. I was looking for a boat. I sure did not want to jump back into that cold water. The others were having a great old time, jumping off the dock, climbing up and doing it all over again. I just wanted to get out of there. So with all the courage I could muster, I finally jumped in the water, swam as fast as I could, and when I reached the sand, I grabbed my towel, wrapped myself up, and walked back to the campground. I have never been in that water since.

Today, I still like to swim, but I prefer warm swimming pools. I get arthritic in cold water and I never want to repeat the episode I had in West Hawk. I hear the ocean is warm in Hawaii. So my partner and I are planning a winter vacation in Hawaii for sometime within the next couple of years, just so I can see if that’s true.

And how is your summer going?


Article by Rikki Dubois, a transgendered writer from Winnipeg. Her book Muffy was Fluffy helps children understand what it means to be transgendered. Order it today from McNally RobinsonMcNally Robinson.

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