Ponder this:

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Swimming

In the recent inhumanely hot temperatures, I have thought more than usual about swimming. In pools, in swimming holes in creeks, in the ocean, in lakes.



On hot days when I was little, we would pray that Dad would come home, get out of his truck and, on his way in the door, call, "Who wants to go swimming?" I think it was considered Not A Good Idea to ask or pester: we had to wait to see if Dad would feel the need for a dip. We'd hardly wait for his invitation to be out of his mouth before we'd begin to scramble out of our wilted sweaty shorts and shirts and into our bathing suits and all pile into the truck to go to the swimming hole at "the crick." I wouldn't be able to find the place now to save my soul, but it was a spot on the Kaydeross where tree roots made rough stairs in the steep bank. You could tell how many people had been there before you by the muddy slipperiness of the roots. I still love that creek mud smell, although last summer's flood somewhat tainted it for me.


I was fifteen when the family who employed me as a babysitter asked me to go with them to Bar Harbor to "nanny" for them. The kids and I stayed with the Missus' mother: there was little nannying to be done. Mr. and Mrs. went on a sailing trip with friends for a few days and then they were back to watch their own kids. They were very nice people. I think they were just being terribly kind to me and wanted to give me a vacation. If you've never swum in the ocean off the Maine coast, you haven't experienced Refreshing. I believe there is ice in the water there. That was the first time I ever experienced undertow . . . I was twirled and spun and scraped along the bottom for a few short but uncomfortably long moments. 


A summer day in my early teens: my friend's family stopped at my house to ask if I wanted to go along with them to a week's stay at a lake in Vermont. I needed to bring sheets and we had no extra sheets, so I took the dirty sheets off my bed. When my friend's mother saw those sheets . . . they were worn and torn almost from one end to the other . . . she laughed. I think that I never took them out of the car. L and I rowed a boat that was provided with the cabin and played cards at night in the yellow porch light. The lake was filled with those tall leafy weeds that twine around your legs. I tried not to make ugly sounds of fright as they stroked my legs until I swam out to deeper water where they couldn't reach me.


When I was in college, I worked as a chamber maid at a motel for one summer. One of my employee privileges was use of the motel pool after I'd cleaned all my rooms. I had the best suntan of my life that summer. First I had the worst sunburn of my life, and I continued to go out in my little red two-piece suit and cook myself through my sunburn until I was so hot I could hardly breathe. Then I'd get up, stalk to the edge of the pool and dive in without any ado. Once my flesh cooled enough for comfort, I'd climb up the stairs, go back to my lounge chair and cook some more. I was careful to remove all jewelry and spread my fingers so there would be no white areas other than those covered by my suit. If I get skin cancer, that summer is the reason.


This summer when the heat's stopped my brain from functioning well enough to accomplish anything or even to read, I've daydreamed about having a small pool here at the house. What a pleasure it would have been, last week, to spend my days and nights lolling in the water, letting it leach the heat from my blood. Then I think about having to clean the thing and make sure the chlorine's correct and having to fish out drowned rabbits and woodchucks, and a cool shower seems perfectly good.

24 comments:

Terra said...

I like your stories here of refreshing cool moments in water, from the past. A pool or a crick, it sounds good.

Linda Myers said...

Great memories! They brought back some of my own.

Grandmother said...

I lived for 5 years in Maine and know about icy water! Your memories made me remember my father coming home from work and taking all the kids who could fit in his car to the local pool. Such a treat. On his days off and vacations we went to the beach- sweet memories.

Anonymous said...

When we were kids we had no air conditioning of course and my mom would create her own! She would take damp top sheets out of the washer, run a small fan in our bedroom and flip those cool soap scented sheets over our hot sweaty little bodies. Having a cool top sheet gave us some of the best sleep we ever had!

Lynette said...

wonderful post - and I loved the illustration!

threecollie said...

What a delightful post! Brought back so many memories of the many places we swam as kids. Spent a huge amount of time in the lake last week, loving every second of it and wishing I could swim more than one week a year. It is such a lovely way to get exercise.

Joanne said...

Saratoga is lovely. Nice memories of childhood remembered, and the folks who included you. I can see you steadfastly cleaning your way through those rooms, destination-- pool.

DJan said...

So refreshing to think of swimming in cool water. Of course, it would help if we had really hot weather like the rest of the country. There are very few outdoor pools in the Pacific Northwest, for obvious reasons. Love your descriptions!

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

I remember swimming as a child in city swimming pools , all chlorine and echoes , or in the tiny harbour at my Irish grandmother's front door .

And my children swimming in a tiny swimming hole in the Andalucian mountains where you sometimes caught sight of a kingfisher .

georgia little pea said...

Some excellent memories there, June! Good girl for remembering to remove all the trinkets before tanning. Zebra tans are ugh.

My own early memories of water are filled with fear. I used to have quite a bad case of hydrophobia and still swim tentatively. I LOVE your picture! :)

Olga said...

The average swimming hole in VT is pretty darn COLD. It has been years since I have been swimming in VT. This past winter in FL we did the pool several times--unusual. I remember the first time I went in the ocean in N.C.--I was in my 30's. I was in awe that the water could be so warm, having only experienced New England beaches prior to that.

Isabelle said...

If you want to be completely refreshed, you could try coming to Scotland. It's cool and rainy here after a whole two sunny days. And if you want to see your life flash before you, you could try swimming in the sea. Argh.

(Happy belated birthday, by the way. Glad you made it.)

Hilary said...

Oh I know those icy waters off Maine.. brr. You sure make me feel nostalgic for those days when swimming was a given. I haven't been in the water yet, this summer. Maybe this afternoon when I take Benny walking along the creek. I might just join him in his usual swim.. only I won't fetch any sticks. ;)

Barb said...

I have lots of happy childhood memories of water, too. Sometimes, just thinking of those memories makes me feel cooler and puts a smile on my face. I enjoyed your stories.

Vicki Lane said...

I love your memories -- so well told. And that shower is my idea of refreshment these days.

Pauline said...

That was a delightful read. I'm not much a swimmer, but I remember playing at the brook when I was small, swimming after a hot afternoon of haying, and getting my first taste (ugh) of a chlorinated pool. Now I'm like you - a cool shower suffices.

Kirsten (peacefuldog) said...

When it's this hot, all you can do is spend time in the water. Lakes and streams are good for me though; I agree that a pool would be way too much to maintain! Bet the dogs would love it though :)

busana muslim layali said...

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Beth Camp said...

A few months ago I read a lovely article where the writer wrote about 5 photos of herself taken throughout her life. That's what your word picture does. The images that come through are innocent and affirming, reminiscent of long-ago-days, yet with that wry humor (yes, a shower!) I've come to admire. Bravo!

Marcia said...

We used to go past the doghouses, through a barb wire fence, and into the woods to a little pond where we splashed and built dams and generally kept cool. Later I discovered that cows used to stand in it and drink. Well, they say you have to eat a pound of dirt before you die. I think we had our share.

Joe Todd said...

As a kid we used the old water hose a lot in the summer...but no matter wht you do it is difficult to stay cool in Ohio in the summer LOL

Morning Bray Farm said...

Seriously. When are you going to write a book?

I laughed about you spreading your fingers to ensure no white areas. I shudder to think back to the days when we slathered ourselves with baby oil... lord have mercy, what were we thinking?

Friko said...

If we had a pool I'd have to break the ice off it at the moment. Well, a;most . . . .

Midlife Jobhunter said...

Great stories. Good memories for you. Reminds me of how I learned to love the water. I grew up in Minnesota - land of lakes, but we didn't have any swimming holes near us. We had one week a year at a lake. Lived for it.