Remember the first time you touched the water with those wildly flailing arms and stiff, unsteady legs? Can you recall the touch of excitement meddled with apprehension of the chlorinated mixture that kept finding its way into your throat coupled with the resultant tummy ache from having swallowed a gallon of salt or pool water? Don’t you dare turn your nose up! As disgusting as it might sound in your adult phase, it happened to you too.
Think back to the time when you had thoroughly embraced your merman/mermaid heritage and you succeeded in ripping from one end of the pool to another. For myself, this was a summer at Camp Mathieu somewhere in southern Illinois. I was reeling from the recent disclosure that at age 8 or 9, I was a recovering bedwetter. It had to come out at some time. Hopefully this revelation will not come back around to bite me in any future political campaign since others can clearly relate to it. *Listens for crickets chirping amongst the audience*
In any case, I was in dire straits to find a success during that summer. Already, I had been bested on the cross terrain bicycle race due to my unfortunate discovery of a ditch on the far right side of the racing lane. I was also never able to keep up with the other children in arts and crafts who had mastered the magnificent art of making those braided rubber key chains. My fingers are still not nimble enough to this day to string one together especially when my patience is the width of that string, at least as far as craftwork is concerned.
In the midst of this tumultuous season, I found myself gleefully splasing about in the pool with 50 or so other campers that had been allotted pool time on this scorching summer day. As the whistle was blown announcing the end of our time, I found myself wading toward the wall intending to make my exit. I was halted by a counselor beckoning me to make my way down to the shallow end of the pool. I was immediately filled with a sense of danger since I had been in the habit of attracting the attention of summer employees who obviously earned their physical education degrees under the careful instruction of the Marquis De Sade. Fortunately this would not a new spin on table squats or bucket holding. This counselor just wanted to see if I would accept his challenge to swim from 3 feet to 9 feet.
I beckoned all of the courage my adolescent frame could muster. I was not in the habit of putting on shows since I can’t bear the thought of people staring at me. As I stretched out that first straight arm and cupped hand, I threw my face into the water in a frenzied manner. 4 feet. I twisted my head from one side to the other to prevent drowning in the drink. I reached out my arm as if attempting to grasp the safety bar at the wall on the 9 foot end. 6 feet. I found my wispy arms becoming weary against of the pressure of the waters they were churning through. 7 feet. The body could stand no more and the legs began to give out. 8 feet. The safety bar on the left wall was my salvation that faithful day. I swam maybe 20 feet which was a more sustained cardiovascular work than I had been accustomed to performing aside from the intensity of my bike rides. I will never forget the first time I earned my sea legs.