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Too Old for a Swim Day?

Screen Shot 2018-08-02 at 2.12.39 PMTowels. Sunscreen. Water bottles. Lunch. Dry clothes. Daughter’s van was loaded for a day at the pool. We had packed as if she and I were taking her five children across country, not an hour’s drive to a pool with slides, fountains, diving boards, and picnic tables.

Riding shotgun while Daughter drove, I thought of my grandmothers. Would they have worn bathing suits and set out on a day’s swimming adventure at my age?

“What’s so funny?” Daughter asked. I didn’t realize I’d chuckled.

“I’m imagining my grandmothers wearing bathing suits. I don’t think I ever saw their legs and they would never have spent a day at a public pool.”

“What about Grannie? Would she?” Daughter referred to my mother.

“Maybe. But she was younger than me when you were the age of your children.” Am I too old for our planned swim day, I wondered?

At the pool, we claimed two lounge chairs to park our belongings. Sunscreen was lathered on bodies, Daughter gave instructions, and my five Grands took off in different directions.

Lou and David, ages 11 and 13, headed to the deeper water beyond the rope that marked “where you can touch bottom and where you can’t.” Elaine and Ruth, ages 7 and 9, climbed steps to a tunnel slide. Four-year-old Jesse ran into shallow water and jumped, splashing water over his head.

Could Daughter and I keep up with them? She heard my unspoken thought. “Mom, they’re good swimmers and Jesse is wearing a life jacket. Lifeguards are all around. One of us will stay close to Jesse. I will now,” she said.

I walked into the water standing where I could see the other four Grands. They separated. Lou swam laps. David on the diving board. Elaine in line to go down the open curved slide. Ruth under a fountain. I glanced at the pool clock. Only 10:30. Then none of my Grands were where I’d last seen them.

Many kids and adults played close to me, closer than I wished. Suddenly, water splashed on my back and head. I turned and saw David. “Gotcha, Gran!” he said and swam away quickly when I splashed him.

Ruth swam to me. “Gran, did you see me go down the slide? Watch. I’m going again!”   Elaine swam close and turned flips for thirty minutes. I counted how many flips she did without stopping and watched as she flipped forward, backwards, sideways. Then my Grand asked, “Will you take me to the deep water?”

Lou swam underwater and brushed my legs, came up smiling, and said, “You never knew I was there.” I scanned the crowd to spot my Grands and was glad they occasionally came near. I marched in place and did straight arm circles, remembering moves from water aerobics classes.

Jesse waved and shouted, “Gran, come play with me.”

At the end of the day, my nerves were frazzled. My body tired. My thoughts happy. Thankful that grandmothers of my generation wear bathing suits and play.


I did it! WATCH ME!

imgresElaine, age 5, didn’t like water in her face when she took swimming lessons last month. Thirty-minute lessons. Ten days. The teacher encouraged her students to play. Her philosophy is that after children have fun and feel safe in water, they learn to swim. No pressure. No blowing water bubbles. No hold the poolside and kick. My Grand was excited to go to every lesson and at the end of two weeks she didn’t mind water splashing on her face, but she wasn’t a swimmer. Did this method work?

A week later, Elaine and I went to the YMCA pool. I’d hoped she’d blow water bubbles and lie prone in the water, and we’d play. Elaine had a different plan. She adjusted her goggles over her eyes and the inflated water wings on her arms and walked down the steps into the pool. “I can touch!” she said. Then she sat on the pool steps and dipped her chin in the water. When I moved toward her, Elaine held up both hands as if she were stopping traffic. I stepped back. She put her face in the water and blew bubbles. Again and again and again.

“Good, Elaine! When you want to swim, the next thing is to lie on your stomach with your arms straight out in front and kick,” I said. She held to the side of the pool, face in the water, and kicked.

“Like that?” she asked.

Yes, and she could do the same thing away from the wall and I’d hold my hand under her belly. Elaine shook her head to say she didn’t want my help. She walked two steps from the wall, stuck her face in the water, kicked her feet, and immediately grabbed the wall.

Elaine watched a man, carrying a long pool noodle, enter the water. He lay on his stomach with the noodle under his chest and swam. “Can I have a noodle?” Elaine asked. We took off her water wings and adjusted the noodle so it lay under Elaine’s chest and the noodle’s long ends tucked under her armpits.

My Grand stuck her face in the water, her arms straight, and kicked her feet against the pool wall. She didn’t stop kicking. She glided about eight feet, raised her head, and looked back. “I did it! Did you see me!” she shouted. We hugged tightly to celebrate.

“Next, when you want to, you can move your arms. Together in the front and then out,” I said and showed her. Like a breaststroke. Elaine planted her feet on the bottom of the pool and moved her arms. And then, she swam. Kicking, breast stoke, face in water. She stopped, took a breath, and said, “Take my picture! Send it to Mommy and Daddy.”

She swam. I texted a picture from my phone, and Elaine swam the ten feet back and forth from the pool wall to me.

“I don’t want this noodle,” my Grand said.   She threw it onto the side of the pool and stood on the pool steps. “Back up, Gran, I’m swimming to you. Watch me!” And she did. Over and over and over.

Did my Grand learn to swim in that one hour at the YMCA? No, all those times through the years of playing and watching others gave her confidence and the desire to swim. Elaine swam when she was ready. Her swimming teacher was right.

And that’s exactly the way children learn best. When they want to learn.


I Know the Feeling


Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 6.58.02 AMLast summer Robbie invited me to bring my Grands, ages 8 and 6, to swim at her house while her 9 ½ year old grandson Noah was visiting. The children splashed and played along beside each other, just as children do when they meet someone new. At lunchtime, we all dried off and spread our towels to sit around the pool. Noah started inside the house, turned, and asked my Grands, “Do you’ll want a Luncheable?”


David and Lou frowned. I answered for them. “No, but thank you, Noah. We brought our lunches.” I handed my Grands the small cooler in which Daughter had packed their food. Rollup sandwiches, made with flour tortillas filled with thin sliced turkey and shredded mozzarella cheese. Hunks of watermelon. Clusters of grapes. Homemade cookies.


Noah settled himself beside David.   He ripped the thin cellophane covering off a square plastic package. Lou tilted her head and looked at the package. David eyed it and said, “What’s that?”


“What’s what?” Noah said.


“Your lunch?” David asked. Inside the six-inch square plastic package were three small round tortillas, 5 slices of pepperoni, some white shredded cheese, and a take-out ketchup sized packet of pizza sauce.  Lou furrowed her eyebrows as if memorizing the package’s contents.


“It’s like little pizzas,” Noah said. Using his teeth, he ripped open the packet and he squirted red sauce on a tortilla.


“Where’d you get it?” David asked.


“Nana gets them at the grocery or somewhere,” Noah said. David held his roll up sandwich close to his mouth but he didn’t bite it, instead he watched as Noah covered the tortilla with a pepperoni slice and cheese.


“That looks really good,” David said and he laid his sandwich back in the cooler. “Does every grocery store have them?” Noah shrugged his shoulders. “I wonder if Mama could find them.”


“I think they’re by the milk and stuff,” Noah said and bit into his miniature pizza. David and Lou watched as red sauce dribbled down Noah’s chin. I knew exactly how my Grands felt. I remember being envious when I was young and spent the night at a friend’s house and for breakfast her mother spread Blue Bonnet margarine on toast. At my house, we spread home-churned butter on Mom’s homemade biscuits.


Now, watching Noah and David and Lou, I restrained myself from raiding Robbie’s refrigerator for two more packaged lunches. “Noah, would you like some watermelon?” I said. He bit into the watermelon and somehow that reminded David and Lou that they, too, had food to eat.


But that’s not quite the end of the story. Last week Robbie again invited us to her house. “We’ll eat lunch and swim, just like last year,” I told my Grands. “Noah is there. And on the way, we’ll stop at the grocery store to buy your lunch, maybe Lunchables.” They chose exactly what they’d watched Noah eat a year ago.


My Grands and Noah pulled the cellophane covering off their lunches and each ate every morsel packed in those small plastic boxes. I knew exactly how my Grands felt. The way I felt decades ago when I carefully unwrapped a stick of yellow margarine, put it on a serving plate, and told my friend, “Mom is making toast for breakfast.”