21May

Swim Lessons

Natalie windmills through the water, her arms smooth as oars. She flutters her feet like mermaid fins and relaxes on the cushion of the water with an ease so unfamiliar to me. I didn’t take well to swimming as a child, and I still tense up in the water, trapping wisps of air in lungs squeezed too small, beating back the deep with panicky chops. Not my impossibly long eight-year-old though. She trusts the four feet of chlorinated blue beneath her and the tenor of her swim instructor’s voice. She breathes easily, my calm girl.

On the other side of the pool, Sophie laps up distance like a puppy, her hands pawing the water enthusiastically, a big grin visible just above the surface. Four months ago, she was afraid of getting water in her eyes; now, her confident splashes lead a pack of five-year-olds up the lane. I remember whispering to her about bravery last summer at the pond. We had stood barefoot on the grass staring down its rippling green, both of us trying to ignore the silvered flashes of fish through storm clouds of silt at the bottom, and I had whispered in her ear about how being scared is the first half of bravery; the other half is jumping in anyway. She jumps easily now, my brave girl.

I perch on a clear plastic stool and watch them through the glass like a mother hawk. I feel such tenderness toward those little bodies in motion below me and such fierceness toward potential threats, including that of the water surrounding them. My mind slips briefly toward Oklahoma and those children huddling around their teachers while the sky bludgeoned their school around them, but I can’t dwell there right now. I just can’t. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe when I’m not watching a poolful of little ones in the earnest upswing of learning.

For now, just this—calmness and bravery, and a childlike trust that we’ll be held in all that deep beyond our control.

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4 comments

  1. “being scared is the first half of bravery; the other half is jumping in anyway” …Why I read you. Why I keep coming back. Why it matters. Why I love this so fiercely.

  2. I used to live in Oklahoma City and was there for the 1999 tornado that they keep comparing this one to. It was horrible. Terrifying. My heart aches for these poor families who have lost their people, lost their homes, yet I’m also so thankful that all my people are OK. I don’t understand these things, at all. It horrifies and grieves me beyond measure. So I’ve stopped trying to understand. All I can do is look at my people and be so thankful for them, for their life and health and safety this moment. Wishing you strength and peace. XO

  3. This is a beautiful tribute and oh so true. xoxo

  4. Liz & Megsie – Thank you, dear ones.

    Krista – I can’t imagine living through one of those. Truly, I can’t. I don’t understand either, but I’m grateful that we don’t have to make sense of tragedies to feel their impact or remember to hold each other a little more tightly. <3

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