I died swimming at Sesame Place

My fear of water has crippled me since I was 9. I remember when water knocked me down in my first battle and I still can’t get up. It literally took my breath away. It was a warm sunny day at Sesame Place Water Park in Philadelphia. My mom had just got her dream job as a flight attendant with US Airways. She had a very tight flying schedule that summer so I excitedly went to Philly with her coworker Vicki and daughter Stacy for the summer. 

It was there I had my first Philly cheesesteak— talk about palate memories. It was also my first and last time near a body of water. 

We went on water rides, well “they” went on water rides and I “my scary cat self” sat on the side waiting because I just couldn’t dare let water splash in my face. I didn’t like the feeling. It was like every time I got near water an imaginary monster would take its hands and choke me. I couldn’t breathe. I felt suffocated.  

The more I walked around the hot amusement park watching other kids giggle and wipe the cool water off their faces, the more I felt left out. Who wants to be that kid?? So I kept telling myself— you can do this Fenise. I could do this. So I did.  

I stood in the line, somehow I managed to straighten my back enough to clear the height requirements and got my life jacket. I went on the waterfall ride. Yaaaayyyy for Fenise! She was brave. Andrea was terrified though.  

We went around winding lanes of water and THEN I saw it. Life flash before my innocent and naive 9 year old eyes. Here I was as skinny as my favorite cartoon character Olive Oil standing face to face with a mountain sized waterfall. I wanted to go back. But how?! As I dropped down the waterfall, my float went up to God and I saw him for the first time as water filled my chest and breath was gone. 

It seemed like I was in the water forever. And then, an arm I will never forget reached for me and pulled me up. The face of a “big white lady” I could point out in a lineup of heroes right now today at 37, saved me. She laid me across her lap until we got to the end. I remember her voice say “Dear you’ll be okay”. You’re safe now sweet dear”. 

Since that day, I can’t run through sprinklers, splash water on my face, duck my head underwater, even spray a facial mist.  Sad but true!

But, I can’t keep telling this tired story of fear another decade. I HAVE to learn to swim. Learning to swim will be my initiation into a new life. I’ve seen it in dreams. It’s not until I conquer this fear that I can live fully. 

So here I am, standing in a body of water with a swimsuit. I haven’t had a swimsuit on since the summer of 89. Before I turn 40, I want to at least be able to duck my head under water and learn how to swim.  I have to allow that little girl who died at the waterfall to come and reclaim her life. And I WILL!!!