Saturday, May 15, 2010


I always felt that if I made a movie, it would be one movie; I didn't see how they could make 26 swimming movies.
 Esther Williams

Regular Friday night ritual. Swimming lessons.

Always a rush. We hurtle into the hot, moist conservatory, air plump with chlorine and the hum of voices.  Dump bags, kick off shoes, fuss over caps and strap on goggles.  The children disperse to separate lanes and greet their water-logged instructors. 

Lessons have been miraculously scheduled to start at the same time, but end at fifteen minute intervals. There is a blissful thirty minute lull when I am still, perched on a hard ledge, eyes flitting between classes, smiling encouragingly and giving thumbs up signs when our glances collide.  Broad grins, eager faces and smooth, shiny bodies.

Their strokes are still uncoordinated and self-conscious. Arms are rigid and tense, movements jerky.  Hands hit the water like paddles.  Kicking is loose-limbed, the water turbulent in their wake.  This is a skill to be acquired through method and practice.  But in their free play, they duck dive to the bottom and swirl like seals.

So it goes on.  Week by week, as they gradually master the techniques, gain strength and speed. I'd like to take a book and read, or make lists like other parents do.  Do something useful with the time or simply stare into the middle distance lost in my own thoughts.  But it's captivating to witness their incremental progress.  It would be a shame to miss it. 

It's also amusing from my poolside position to pick winners.  That is, to search for and locate the natural swimmers.  The long, slim ones who float to the top full-length and glide along the surface with ease, as if the water offered no resistance at all.   Good swimming is an artistic performance.  All the pool's a stage.


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