Code Name Alice has started swimming lessons. She has a little trouble at first but by the end of each class, she's splashing and laughing and loving every second.
Recently, as I've been putting on her shoes and coat, her gusto to start the day is reminding me of a specific traumatic childhood memory.
You see, I love swimming. The water was one of my favorite places as a kid. I didn't learn to swim until I was probably around 6-7 years old--I'm not sure when it happened--but I wore those arm floaters in the swimming pool until I learned and thought that was the coolest thing ever. I would just bob there and float. Everyone else was working so hard to stay above the water while I just folded up my legs and Zenned out (or did I zone out? Not so clear on that point).
I'm about 3 years old, standing by the edge of a swimming pool in the middle of summer (it's always the middle of summer, isn't it? Maybe it was actually the tail end of summer or the first bite of sunburn, I'm not really sure). My step dad is getting my arm floaters blown up and I'm just staring at the pool like it's a rabbit and I'm a lion and I'm going to rip that sucker a new one. I think I start to drool. The sun is hot, the concrete is echoing blinding light and I'm thinking to myself, "as soon as I get those floaters, I'm going to jump right into the middle of that giant pool." I can't think about anything else. I'm so wired up and ready. My step dad is putting on my floaters and I'm thinking, "as soon as he gets that floater on, I'm going. ready. ready. READY. NOW!"
And I jump in.
Abruptly, I realize that I've made a boo-boo. As I hit the water, I sink. Then I rise in a furious battle with the thin layer between water and air. But only half of my body rises, just my left arm. To my horror, my memory flashes back to the previous moment and I see that my step dad was only putting on my first floater. I'm only wearing one!
I start to flail in a random, uncontrolled fashion, a fashion that is so out of vogue. I think I'm drowning. I actually think I'm about to die. I start to scream. "Halp... glub...*FLAIL*... blah, I'm ... glub... drown.... ing.... blub *SPLASH*."
My mother and step dad are taking pictures. Between breathes, as I'm pushing my head out of the water, with all my will to live, I see my mother half bent and smiling, the camera in both hands, cherishing this moment of my personal achievement. My step dad is just looking at me and holding up the other floater, like, "duh dude, WTF, of course you're drowning. This is what you get for being over eager."
"I'm D-Y-I-N-G! *splash* *gasp* HELP!"
I think they realize now that I am not actually swimming but rather being kept alive, only precariously, through this meager, air-filled plastic bracelet around my one visible arm. At this point, I let my body sink, leaving my arm as a marker to aid search parties in locating my corpse.
Of course, Nam Dad, with his last minute hero mentality, jumps in and pulls me out just before I breathe in the drink.
I spent the rest of the day in the hot tub, which was just deep enough that at the deepest point, in the middle, I could stand up and poke my head above water. I found that if I squatted down and sunk to the bottom, I could stare up at everyone as they sat around the ring. I pretended they couldn't see me and that I had that little world to myself. My own little heated pool in the middle. I didn't need floaters there.