I was only 3 but I remember it clearly. Learn to swim my parents said, so they threw me in, right in between my oldest sister (almost 16 yrs older than me)and her husband. Sink, or swim. I guess my instincts or something kicked in, because I remember swimming, right to my brother in law. And just like that, I was a swimmer. Everything I learned about life, from that point on, I learned in that pool.
Local legend has it that there was a pool salesman that lived on our street, so every house, or so it seemed had a pool. But ours, ours was the best, the king of pools. And my parents made sure it stayed pristine, even to this day.I spent every waking warm moment in that pool and learned lessons that shaped who I am.
Trust: You have to trust those around you, and believe they will do what they say they will.
I was so scared to jump off the deck or the ladder, or go down the slide. Petrified. My mom said she would catch me, if I went under, she would pull me up. Or my dad, would wait at the base of the slide, to grab me before I would go too far under. They always did. They always caught me, before I went too deep.Until they didn’t have to anymore, because, I trusted myself, my own judgement. And to this day, even in their advanced years, they still do. I still trust them, and others because of them.
Be Brave: Sometimes, or all the time you have to face your fear,to get to where you want to go.
Our pool had this amazing slide, very tall, or it seemed so when I was young. I wanted so badly to go down it, I must’ve been about 5 or so.I climbed up and made it to the top, and wanted to turn around and go back down the steps, but one of my sisters was right behind me, blocking the way.”No, you can do it, it will be fun. Just try.” I am sure tears were shed, and maybe a fit was thrown, but then, I tried. Someone was at the bottom to catch me, and I swam to the other side. Then promptly did it again, and again, and again. There are so many times I want to quit things I am about to start, because I am convinced I will screw it up, or do it wrong. But when I just follow through, I realize, there wasn’t anything to be afraid of. I STILL go down that slide. I am usually a tad scared climbing up its old stairs now, but I do it.
Dive into Life: Don’t sit on the sidelines and watch others having fun, dive in.
We had this diving board that I could’ve sworn was an Olympic diving board. Seemed so big when I was small. Our pool was deep, about 7ft I believe.So my dad and mom taught me to dive. Sometimes all of us kids would line up, one right after another, and dive in. Different ways, silly ways. Belly flops, jack knifes, but we all dove in.There are so many ways to jump into life. We don’t all have to jump the same.You just have to do it. I am Still the 1st one out on the dance floor at a wedding reception, no one can do The Elaine better than me.
Ride out the waves: Life is not always smooth sailing, and sometimes you just have to ride it out.
My dad would always get the best inner tubes for us to have in the pool, and we would fit as many people as possible as we could on it, and “bob” up and down. Trying our best to, not only knock each other off, but also, to create massive waves. We would do this for hours.(It was an amazing ab workout, and probably why I didn’t crack the 100 lb weight mark until after high school)There was always a victor, and a loser. But we never gave up, we fought against the waves as they tried to push us under the water. We climbed back on. Life is like that, sometimes, it is calm and peaceful, and then the waves come. You have two choices really.Keep swimming, even against the waves, or go under, quit. For me, I choose to ride it out when the waves come crashing in on me. Even if I can only doggie paddle through it, I refuse to quit.
You don’t need a lot of friends just a few great ones: Know your circle, your true friends.
It would be a boiling hot day, the doorbell would ring.”Mary, your fair weather friends are here.” I used to hate it when she would say that, because I didn’t understand what she meant. Fair weather? To me, at the time, they were just friends.I mean sure, I didn’t see them all fall, winter and spring long, and they never invited me over, but they were here now, right? They just wanted to swim. They certainly weren’t like my real friends, my yearlong friends. The ones I built snowmen with or jumped in the leaves with. My real friends loved me through all the seasons. The rainy days, the bitter cold, the dark and dreary. They just loved me. My real friends and I would spend hours, from sun up to sun down in that pool. Only getting out to eat, pee, or watch As The World Turns. My real friends and I would build tents made out of blankets and sleep under the stars, and sneak in the pool at midnight, being careful not to wake my parents. And you know what, my real friends then, are Still my real friends now. Those fair weather ones, well, they only stuck around when times were good, and the the skies were blue.
Work hard for what you want: Most things don’t come easy, but hard work is worth it.
My dad came up with this game. He would save change throughout the year.When swimming season started he would throw the change to the deep end of the pool. Whatever we grabbed , was ours. It didn’t matter if it was a family member or a friend. If you swam for it and got it, it was yours. So there we would all be, holding our breath as long as we could, trying to grab metal off a slippery sloped deep end. Treading water to stay under as long as we could hold our air. This would go on for a long time. We would feverishly swim back up to the shallow end and plunk our pennies and nickels down, and go right back under. It was exhausting, but the reward was Worth it. I had worked for this money, I was tired, but I kept going back. That’s what I saw my dad do, everyday. Up early and out the door before our feet hit the ground. Everyday, until he became so sick, he no longer could work. I was 9. And it killed me to see it killing him to no longer be able to work. So there was no way I wasn’t going to work hard getting those pennies, or for my dreams. Nothing comes easy. And usually nothing is handed to you either. So if you have to swim to the deep end to get what you want, get swimming.
Laughter is the best medicine: Find the good, find the happy, find the joy.
I think the laughter from over 40 years is probably still bouncing off the waves in the pool. My sisters and I played this hairstyle game( ironic , right?) We would all go under water at the same time and pop up with a new hairstyle. Except every single time, we looked like George Washington. And we would crack up, each and every time. That tradition carried on with my nieces, and now their girls. Generations of families, neighbors and friends have filled that pool. I love to watch my boys, making up games with their cousins in the pool. Each game has new rules, and tremendous amounts of laughter. My parents usually don’t go in the pool anymore, at 84 and 80, it isn’t easy. So they sit on their back porch, and watch what they created.Their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren,laughing, and playing.Learning to SWIM.