swimming.

March 6, 2008

i was in the bathroom last night performing my nightly bedtime rituals. i wet my face and massaged the bridge of my nose, forehead, and cheeks with dermatologist tested and specially formulated face soap. i then closed my eyes, sealed my mouth, and blindly began to cup my hands, fill them with chilly water, and rinse the soap suds from my face. the wet, icy, and alarming sensation of this everyday act evoked in my memory the sunny, summer afternoons of my childhood, spent at the neighborhood pool.

as elementary school children, my younger brother and i spent our summer days at the home of our grandparents. a rarity, i am learning, to be blessed enough to spend such great chunks of time with the older generation of our family, but completely normal to us. our days there were filled with an assortment of seasonal pastimes. it was during those summers i discovered that snapdragons speak, blackberries warmed on the bush taste like a completely different berry than those hiding in the shade, my grandfather had an endless book of riddles and rhymes stored in his mind, velveeta cheese was delicious, and sitting for hours on a swing which dangled from a large oak tree was indescribably wonderful. adam and i shared adventures with the neighbor kids [which in retrospect seem somewhat silly, but at the time were completely wild] and we spent a good deal of time across the street from grandma and grandpa’s house, at the neighborhood pool. the pool was confined by a brown fence, reaching higher than my head, and surrounded by lounge chairs and umbrellas. we had a ritual, adam and i. after entering the fenced in summer playground, we would neatly spread our towels out on the ground, discard our flip-flops and t-shirts [leaving them in a lump near the foot of our towels], and enter the aqua waters of the Bill Point Community Pool. i would jump in whole-heartedly, and adam, the more cautious one, would gently enter via the steps. after a while our friends would also be in the pool, and games would ensue all afternoon until we were finally forced to exit the waters, wrinkled as raisins to head home.

when it was just adam and i, before the other kids had arrived, we often challenged one another to competitions within the waters. racing the width of the pool, seeing who could create the largest splash with their cannonball, racing to see who could reach the bottom of the deep end first to retrieve the coin we had tossed in, and [of course] battling to see just which one of us could hold their breath for the longest amount of time under water. i was a stubborn child, and did not like to lose, which made these miniature olympic events a huge deal to me, and winning them quite important [never mind that i was competing against a boy three years younger]. i was especially proud of how long i could hold my breath under the water. soon, the competition between adam and i was not enough for me. i got bored watching him pop his head up above the water before me each time, and i started competing with myself…adam no longer an opponent, but transitioning into an official time-keeper. i would sit, cross-legged, at the bottom of the pool, eyes open, and brow furrowed with intensity as i tried to beat my previous record. when i had finally met my limit, when i could no longer stand to be without oxygen, i would launch myself out of the depths of the chlorinated water and into the pleasant summer air. my arms would fling themselves over the edge of the pool to rest on the warm concrete. i would hang there, gasping for breath. my chest would ache as my lungs, in a panic, swelled as they filled with oxygen. after a moment or two i would free one hand from the concrete and use it to brush my wet, matted hair away from my face. then, as if it were a squeegee, my hand would repeatedly brush the droplets of water from my face. my fingers finding their way to my eye sockets would knead my eyeballs – red from the chlorine – until they felt somewhat normal again. my body would cough as it continued to regain a regular, rhythmic breathing pattern. my small, slender body completely exhausted by the entire bottom-of-the-pool challenge. finally mustering up the strength and energy, i would climb out of the pool and sit on my towel a while…until the lure of games and swimming pulled me back in once again.

and as i washed my face last night i sort of chuckled. this memory of mine, as a small girl clinging to the side of a pool, is the most appropriate illustration for my current page in life.

i think, however, that i may have finally mustered up the strength and energy to climb out of the pool and sit on my towel for a bit. but i know, and i hope, the lure of the games and swimming will pull me back soon enough…

 

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