Sunday, June 24, 2012

Gone Swimming

My dad never learned to swim.  Because of that and because he was big on safety, he wanted all of us kids to learn.  My earliest swimming lessons were less than successful--I clung to the side of the pool and cried.  But my parents didn't give up, and before long I was a swimmer.  I spent a majority of my summer afternoons at the town pool.  Although in those days, "going swimming" didn't really mean doing the backstroke.  It meant seeing how many somersaults you could do in a row underwater on a single breath, lying on a thin towel in the sun while talking to friends, going out to play in the park for a while, and doing can openers and cannon balls off the diving board.  It also meant sitting impatiently on the side of the pool with all the other kids for ten minutes every hour during the adult swim.  As I dangled my feet in the water, I watched the middle-aged women in their flowered bathing caps sidestroking their way across the pool; I used to wonder why they did it and what on earth was fun about those slow, steady laps they swam.  Well, now I am one of those middle-aged women.  My swim cap is black, not flowered, and I don't do the sidestroke.  But there I am, a middle-aged woman swimming calmly back and forth across the pool.  It started after a very stressful spring semester.  I was having trouble calming myself down, and for the first time in my life I had high blood pressure.  I had read that swimming was good for lowering blood pressure, so I decided to give it a try.  I started slowly, and before long I discovered I still really liked to swim.  I'm extremely nearsighted, so when I'm in the water with no glasses or contact lenses, I can barely see anything.  And when I'm doing any stroke other than the head-above-water breaststroke, I can barely hear anything.  So I once I'm in the pool, I'm in my own watery world.  The rhythmic strokes and the cool, soothing water did a lot to calm me down that first summer.  And the smell of chlorine on my suit and in my hair took me right back to my childhood.  Most of the time I swim at the college natatorium.  It's nothing like the pool of my childhood.   I don't meet up with friends anymore.  I don't jump off the diving board.  And I can't remember the last time I did a somersault in the water.  But once again I'm spending many of my summer afternoons at the pool.  Thanks for the swimming lessons, Dad!


  1. Chattering teeth, mean swimming teacher-can't remember her name, wondering if the popular kids would look at me, talk to me, dreaming of the perfect flip off of the diving board, back dives, ...........not having the right kind of towel-mine was usually a bath towel. But every day it wasn't thunder and lightninging we were at the pool. And before the tornado there was a nice row of really tall pine trees lining the road entering the park grounds.
    My kids have not had this kind of pool experience. We don't have a town pool and rely on friends' pools which is not the same.

  2. This brings back so many more memories--thanks! And yes, same here--no town pool, and we don't even have friends with pools! My kids had to rely on backyard wading pools, indoor pools and sprinklers!