The crisp morning air surrounds the nine-year-old girl as she stands by the side of the swimming pool, her skinny arms and legs covered with goose bumps. She thinks her new green and white polka dot bikini makes her look like one of the older girls.
She sticks rubber plugs into her ears to prevent another bout of infection. A white swimmer’s cap is pulled and tugged over her blonde pixie-styled hair, and the strap is snapped under her chin…ouch! POOL RULE…even if it pinches and gives her a headache. She reaches into her bag and pulls out her nose plug necklace, squeezing the rubber-covered aluminum horseshoe over her freckled nose to keep water from rushing to her brain. Wrapping a towel around her shivering body she waits for the dreaded sound that signals the beginning of her swimming lesson. A whistle shrieks and she plunges into a frenzy of splashing preadolescent bodies.
The little girl must move her arms like a propeller AND turn her head to just one side to breathe AND kick her feet all at the same time. She can manage two at a time but not quite all three. The frigid water is trying to swallow her up, suck her down to the bottom, and spit her out where there is no air. She is practicing kicking AND breathing AND shivering while holding onto the side of the pool. The suntanned swimming instructor shouts, “KICK!” over and over… Now the little girl prays for the blast of the whistle that signals the end of the misery.
She runs to where her mother is seated. “Look at those blue lips!” Her mother wraps the little girl in a big dry towel. Her mother is smiling. She is happy to have escaped her regular Household duties. All the freed mothers are lined up in lawn chairs, ready to visit for the day. The little girl’s mother can swim like a swan, cutting through the water without ever getting her face or hair wet.
The little girl burns her tongue on her hot chocolate, the sun warms her, and she quits shivering. She begins to look forward to the rest of her day…spending her time in the shallow end of the pool pretending to be a mermaid…sometimes a dolphin…