I took Lily to the pool for the first time the other day. I was expecting a much bigger reaction than what I got. She loves to be in the tub, and she used to just smile and giggle the whole time. Now at 6 months it seems like she is telling me, "whatever mom, being in the water is fun, but it's no big deal." I had expected being in a swimming pool would rekindle a little bit of that previous excitement. Then again, we were indoors in the Snow College pool, which is not quite as warm as bath water is. And there wasn't any sun to warm us. I think she had more fun eating the tulle skirt of her cute little swimsuit.
She stared at her surroundings for a few minutes before she took an interest in what we were doing. I did get a few smiles out of Lily while twirling her around in the water, and walking up and down the pool while she kicked her legs experimentally. The biggest smiles and giggles were when she caught sight of the diving toys a couple of kids nearby were playing with. I'll have to remember to bring toys with us next time. I think she enjoyed it overall- until it was time to get out. Being cold was a new concept to her, and she had a very perplexed expression and emitted funny grunting noises as we shivered our way to the locker room and a hot shower, where Lily entertained herself by sticking her hands in the stream of water and kicking her legs.
I dressed her and laid her back in the stroller to sleep while I got back in the pool for a little "me" time. I didn't have the foresight to bring my cap and goggles with me, but the deep end was roped off anyway which cut the pool in half. Lap swimming is only from 5-8 a.m., and I'll be darned if I'm going to get up that early to go exercise. Which is strange considering in high school I used to get up at 4:30 in the morning to attend swim practice. I guess being on a team and having friends to swim with makes a difference.
I used to think that it didn't matter what team I was on, that just being on a team was enough motivation for me to swim my best. When I started practice with my college team, I discovered just how much my high school team meant to me, and how much I miss that camraderie. The truth is, even though I hated it at the time, I actually miss all those sadistic things my coach made us do- banana splits, push ups, sit ups, lactate sets- and my nemesis, the "cromwells", which is basically crouching down and jumping in the air-repeatedly and quickly. My legs wore out after two or three. But even through the hardest practices, we somehow had enough fun to make up for it. And spring training, our "hell week", usually ended up being the best week of the season overall.
Every once in awhile I have an epiphany about some drill or exercise we'd work on, and have a "D'oh!" feeling as the point of the exercise would finally sink in. When I was in the pool while Lily slept, I finally figured out the proper technique of sculling (it only took me nine years, I grumbled). I wonder how much better I could have done if only I'd figured these things out in my first year of swim. It wasn't until towards the end of my swim career that I learned how to keep my legs steady while doing the breaststroke. I was one of the people my coach lightheartedly describes as "breaststroke retards."
I still have dreams about meets and practices, but now they are of me returning as an alumnus to join my team in an important competition. It is like those movies where a retired hero is called upon for a mission that only he or she can complete. I wouldn't say I was the star of the team, certainly, but I wasn't half bad. And the pool was one place where I felt like I truly belonged. I could come to practice full of anxiety, and be able to turn my emotion into motion.
People may say swimming up and down, up and down is boring, but it gave me time to think, and a positive outlet for my energy. Water is amazing. The touch and feel of it, the challenge of pushing through it without allowing it to enter your lungs, of learning through overuse the muscles you didn't know were there. And strength you never knew you had. It was so long ago since I was swimming consistently that it is easy to forget that part of me ever existed. Everytime I get in the water, it comes rushing back. Once you learn, you never forget it.
It was something I needed to remember, that I am more than just a mom now. And if I ever did have the chance to go back- just for one day- to my old high school team, I would give it my very best- a best that has grown stronger over the years, because I understand now what the purpose was behind all of the drilling, the exercises, the team building activities, and all the little things I cut corners on because I hated doing them. Not that I didn't try my best back then. I just have a broader perspective now.
I wish I had the opportunity when I was a kid to be on a swim team. I had wanted to all my life, and I didn't have the chance until I was in high school. One of the first things Lily will learn from me is how to swim, and while I will allow her to learn whatever sport she desires, I hope that she will choose to swim. It made a difference in who I am. And it will give us something to bond over when she reaches those dreaded teenage years.
I think the thing I miss the most, probably why I still dream about swimming, is that I felt like I was truly a part of something. I was in the best shape of my life. While I have been a part of other things since then, very little has come close to affecting me the way that being a part of Cathedral City Swim was. I miss it, but I am forever glad for what I accomplished during my time there.