My mother would enter a pool in one of two ways:
By creeping slowly, one step at a time, into the shallow end, splashing water on herself, rubbing her arms, and making these embarrassing “Shoo! Whoo!” noises until finally, after what seemed like hours, plunging her whole body underwater.
Or, she’d walk to the deep end, stand at the edge, and dive right in. She’d then swim the length of the pool.
She looked so powerful. Like she could rule the world. I loved when she’d dive right in when we were in a crowded hotel pool—as always, she was completely oblivious and unconcerned with her surroundings, or if anyone was watching. Not that she was an expert diver or swimmer. It was the freedom in it: she plunged in and swam.
I never understood why she didn’t just dive in every time. What I also didn’t understand, but now do, is that there was a freedom in both ways of entering the pool. And the beauty of both was: the utter lack of self-consciousness in the acts. Sometimes she wanted to gradually move into the pool. Sometimes she wanted to dive. Who cares if anyone’s watching?
I didn’t go to a pool once this past summer. I went to the beach with my friends Lauren and Rachel on the 4th of July, though. We all shared a blanket, ate fruit, and drank sangria out of the plastic flag cups that my mom had bought years ago. Although we had spent what seemed like hours searching for parking, then getting snacks, then walking to the beach, by the time we were on the blanket it didn’t matter. I wondered why I didn’t go to the beach every weekend and sprawl out on a blanket.
After awhile, of course, it reached the point of uncomfortably hot. Did I walk to the water with Rachel, or with Lauren? I don’t remember, but what I do remember is this:
When I walked to the edge of the water, it was freezing, but I kept walking, step by step. I started splashing the water on my thighs, on my stomach, and rubbing my arms. As I did, I went, “Whoo! Ohfuckitscold! Shoo!” Or something like that.
I didn’t get it until just now.