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Swimming Lessons

Clam-digging Tammy, about 4 years old
Here I am, unafraid of clam-digging, Long Beach, CA, about 4 years old. Can't seem to find a picture of that old bathing suit that mom made for me, but you've got to admit that this is a pretty cute get-up.

One minute you’re running around in your little orange calico bathing suit that your mom made….the next you’re carefully folding your reading glasses and sliding them into your red calico glasses-case.  It is interesting what inspires old memories, hence the following story:

I think I was all of 8 when I wore said two-piece cotton swim-set.  It was a medium orange with light blue and gold flowers, some brown bits, too…almost a seersucker that I can recall.  I can even visualize the green of the grass in the lawn around my cousin’s above-ground pool where we played for hours in the summer. My mom sewed the “suit” as a pinafore top, of sorts, with elastic-waisted bloomer-type bottoms.  I didn’t think twice that it wasn’t the perfect bathing ensemble in 1973.  I’m sure I was a vision of orange, being that I had a good head of coppery-auburn hair and freckles! 

A favorite story my family liked to tell was of me taking swimming lessons at the U.C.L.A. swimming pool.  I’ll never forget the night before my first lesson.  I had visions of myself leaping and diving through the water like a mermaid.  I actually soared through the water and up and out with beautiful splashes from my shimmering, fan-like tail!  But the next day I shivered and clung to the edge of the pool with what seemed to be a hundred other little kids while the college-aged instructor walked around telling us all to put our faces in the water and blow bubbles.  “What?!”  I may have been 5 years old, but I was pretty sure if I put my face in the water that I would choke and drown….and everyone knew that bubbles only came in a little bottle with a wand.

I escaped not one, but several times.  I’d wait for the instructor to be at the other end of the line and then I’d climb out of the pool and start running, running toward the bleachers where I projected my mother and my brothers were sitting with the other parents and family members during the lessons.  And what did I think they would do when I arrived?  I never thought that far ahead and  just as I’d nearly reach the bleachers every time, a strong set of arms would collect me around the waist and carry me back to the bubble-blowing cherubs on the edges of the Olympic-sized pool, plopping me into the lineup.  

My family named the story, “The Great Escape.”  At some point, I reached my mother and I never did go back to those swimming lessons.  But over time, I taught myself how to swim under and over water, even mimicking the many strokes that I watched Mark Spitz perform on t.v..  Swimming was not so hard and definitely not so terrifying as I had thought it to be on that fateful first day of lessons.

Funny how so many years later I can still recall the terror inside that was mine that day of swimming lessons at U.C.L.A..  But, also, wonderful how I’ve lived to tell, of course!, and that because I am a blessed gal, I am able to glean an important lesson during another painful time in my life.  Though I don’t expect saying goodbye to my 18-year-old daughter next week will be any easier than trusting I wouldn’t drown 40-ish years ago, God’s got my back, so to speak, and good stuff will come of it with a little time.  Somehow or other, I’ll figure out how to learn to swim again.

and here I am, all grown up, having managed to learn to swim and raise some really special and amazing young adults!

2 thoughts on “Swimming Lessons”

  1. You will, my friend, you will–not easy, not what you might choose–but all in the plan for each of us. Just know you have much support as you take that step–love you much—-

  2. Love it, Tammy! Very touching and beautifully written. And the coolest thing is that there are swarms of people who agree that your kids are pretty amazing and special.

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