I don’t remember when I first learned to swim. Even as a small child, the idea of swimming lessons seemed silly to me. Knowing how to swim was like knowing how to walk, or breathe; you just dive in the water and do it. Still, one by one, each of my friends at some time during our childhood, enrolled the Red Cross’s swimming classes taught by the suntanned life guards at our town park’s pool. After two weeks of lessons they would show off their breast stroke and brag about diving into the deep end of the pool. I would smile, and act impressed, because I didn’t want to be unfriendly, but the truth was, I’d been diving into the deep end since I could walk and my strokes had long been perfected under my mother’s gentle teaching.
Though I’ve written about it before, some of my best memories were made watching my mom, in her bright red swim suit, elegantly navigate the length of our neighborhood pool. I was told that on warm summer evenings, just a few months after my April birth, she held me in the tepid waters and delighted in my laughter and cooing as I kicked my legs and splashed against her.
As a young girl, I’d swim back and forth with her, hovering in the shallow end, since I couldn’t touch bottom. She’d tell me I was her little mermaid and I’d respond by holding my legs close together and undulating through the water with my imaginary fishtail. Long before Disney had ever made the movie, I’d heard a modified version of Hans Christian Anderson’s original story and decided that the perfect occupation for me was that of a mermaid. I imagined my blond hair growing long and wavy and the scales of my tail flashing rainbows and glistening in the sun. I’d proudly adorn it with oysters to show my rank as a princess of the sea. I practiced singing the sirens’ songs to lure the sailors into my deep blue abyss. The sound of the pool’s pump served as the noise of the swirling sea. I was wary of the sea witch who I was certain resided in the far corner of the deep end.
“You’ve got to be careful! She’ll steal your voice!” I’d warn my imaginary sisters. Don’t sell your hair to her! I’ll turn to foam before I stab the prince!” I’d yell dramatically.
I obviously never became a mermaid, but after my pretending days were over, I did enroll in the Red Cross’s Life Saving courses and worked as lifeguard while in high school. I might not have had a flashy, oyster adorned tail, but I was told that I had a pretty nice set of legs in my younger days! Now, as an adult, I’m never far from a pool and usually swim several times a week with absolutely no fear of the sea witch. Our lives mostly take a path that’s different from our childhood imaginings, but that doesn’t make them any less magical.
This post was inspired by the Daily Prompt, which was : As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? How close or far are you from that vision?