Friday, June 29, 2007

I Love the Smell of Chlorine in the Morning

I had thought that my role of summer mama would be confined to sitting poolside while my offspring took lessons on not splashing the other kids, listening to directions and getting his face wet--but no, I must dive right in beside him.

Not during lessons, that would be absurd, though I did, in fact, learn to swim in that same outdoor Portland Parks and Rec pool nine years ago, sick of being the hypocrite who required her children to learn to swim while she was deathly afraid of the water. I got to start back then as a Penguin, because once you are six or above, you can no longer be in a Goldfish class, which is what our youngest is beginning with this summer.

It is open swim that has me crab walking across the painted cement, trying to keep up with Mr. Energy as he bravely travels all over the shallow end of the pool, as far as he can go on tippy toes, a definite departure from his siblings at that age, who would have spent any free time in the pool attached to my body, refusing to touch bottom or disengage from their portable island.

This I understand. My own Bambi-in-the-headlights response to pools began with an unfortunate incident in a YMCA class in Los Angeles, circa 1969, when I was enrolled in a swim class, became hysterical, was taken aside for private lessons, tried to speak to the swim instructor while underwater doing what was called the jellyfish float, took in a bellyful of water and sank to the bottom of the pool. Yes, I was pulled to safety in no time flat, but for the next thirty years pools were my sworn enemy and nothing would change my mind.

Swimming in any form scared me to death. I lived on the ocean for seven years, and only learned to do a cursory dog paddle the summer before we left for an American city, where swimming would take a back seat to high school, drama class, and the crush of the day.

It didn't help that I sank like a stone whenever I entered the water. My older kids were the same. Zero body fat on a lean frame simply doesn't float well. It takes immense effort and the willingness to let go of all fear to let yourself float when gravity and density is working against you. Perhaps it was the curves post-two pregnancies that allowed me to finally float, and now, after a third, I'm buoyant as heck--embarrassing but convenient in a public pool.

Mr. Energy floats. His wide shoulders and muscular frame holds enough body fat to lift his legs when he crawls around on his hands in the shallowest parts, giving him a glimpse of what it would be like to be lifted by water.

He is happy in water. Unstressed, energized, smiling and free. What is a little pool phobia compared to the opportunity to see him rushing by, laughing with his sibs, daring me to chase him through the maze of parent/child pairs surrounding us. Who cares that I look silly with my big sunglasses on, shielding my eyes from pool glare and splash, or that my cellulite must be masked by men's swim trunks because there is no way I'm flashing it in public? My son is happy, and so am I.

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