At the pool

On Wednesday afternoons my daughters attend swimming class. It is unusual that I can come and watch, as my train arrives at the station at 6:00 and it is all over by then. But there are a few rare days, where I am not at the library, and can get to the pool a little earlier to see them.

First of all, I love the smell of indoor pools. I love to swim. I would do it more often if the pool’s schedule and my schedule would just get along and if I had a spare moment to squeeze it into my life. Alas, this is not the case. But everytime I step into that fluorescently lit building, I feel like the smell of chlorine hugs me and welcomes me back.

I spent a lot of time in the pool as a kid, either at swimming lessons, or competitive swimming or just for fun. As a pregnant lady, it was a godsend, and with two small children, it is what kept me sane, having those moments in the pool of intense yet solitary exercise. There is nothing like tons of water to drown out the world…

Now my kids are of the age where they are learning to swim. It is pretty much the only extra curricular I insist on, as having a reasonable defense against drowning seems to me an essential life skill. Although I had to force the youngest one to go (the oldest daughter loves it), they both enjoy their classes right now. When we go, I leave them at the locker room and make my way to the viewing room. I find a place on a cheap plastic patio chair the swimming pool folk have provided for the parents and bend down to look for my kids.

Aside-the reason I have to bend down is because the architect, god love him, made the viewing window in four frames separated by huge, navy blue painted steel bars. And guess where those heavy bars sit? You guessed it. Right at eye level. So all the parents gathered in the viewing room are either standing up in the back (not an option for me due to my vertical challenge) or on the white plastic patio chairs leaning forward like we have a massive cramp.

I find my kids. One is in the deep end, kicking some back stroke butt. The other, with her sturdy little body and precise movements, is about to jump into the pool. She sticks her little bum out, bends her knees, and in a moment of pure joy, leaps from the side of the pool, arms in the air, legs neatly tucked in. I think my huge grin might swallow me up.

But there is a lady in the waiting room, with us, a large woman who talks a blue streak of dribble for the whole 45 minutes of the lesson. She is with her husband who she treats like another child. She watches her child as if he will somehow let her down and goads him on through the glass. One day the boy didn’t want to leave the dressing room. She had a long irritated conversation with him through the glass, forcing him to go back to the pool.

My husband told me about last week, when it was his turn to jump off the diving board. He was scared. He crept up to the edge as if it would swallow him up. And who doesn’t remember that feeling? That feeling right before jumping off when you look down to the water that seems miles away and think to yourself that this might not be a good idea after all?

This woman, however, obviously didn’t remember, because she was muttering under her breath the whole time, “Come on, come on…just do it. Just do it!” The kid eventually turned back and did not jump, to the utter despair of the mother who deflated like a large balloon. He son had let her down in a big way.

She’s probably right though. I bet when admissions hears he didn’t jump off the diving board when he was seven, he doesn’t get into college. I bet, because he chickened out at that precise moment, the kid has no future. Nobody will ever talk to him again because he is now the diving board pussy. Poor kid.

Thank god, that for at least 45 minutes of his life, there is a big block of glass silencing his mother.

3 thoughts on “At the pool

  1. I was a late swimmer (like, 10-ish) and I love my parents extra for being totally cool about it – I went to lessons, hated them, dropped out, and eventually learned from my parents and grand-father. I love swimming now, like you, and I really enjoy that peacefulness. Looks like failing my orange bad hasn’t affected me….

  2. This is a very fine post. I like swimming, and I really like your description of the sturdy, precise swimmer, since she is a smallish friend of mine.But what I really liked was how that mean mother brought back all those memories of not passing my maroon badge in swimming, and the humiliation that caused my mother somehow. Eventually I was enrolled in competitive swimming, which was done initially as punishment I think, but I liked it. This is the only correct response to undeserved punishment – take it and learn to love it. It’s a fun trick that drives the punisher insane with rage that cannot be resolved.Ahhhh. Memories.

  3. What the heck is wrong with people? Personally, I think jumping off a narrow board high above deep, deep water is grounds for reasonable fear. People should be proud of their kids if they show the wisdom to be a little reticent. You know, perhaps ingrained memories of walking the plank, or I don’t know? Drowning? Once again, a plea for parents to BACK OFF!!!

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