Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Pride of Swimming Like an Amateur

The kids and I walked down to the Guadalupe River yesterday. We heard rumors that there was a nice swimming spot, shallow and not too strong. From the moment Lucy’s eyes opened that morning, she begged and whimpered about the river. But there were chores to do and lunch to eat and babies to sleep and school to be done. Each time I said, “After this we will go to the river,” I knew in her head she called me a liar. It did seem to take forever to get ourselves in order enough to head out. But eventually everything got checked off the list, and we buckled our shoes, packed a backpack with all the necessities, and pounded our way down the trail.
I hate describing scenery because I really stink at it; my words never paint what my eyes see. But also, I think there’s a part of my brain that just switches off when a paragraph of nature imagery begins. Even the greats like Steinbeck could lose me by the second sentence. All that to say, I wish I had the vocabulary that could apply enough color and texture and depth to the description of what we saw as we plodded down the stony path that ended at the river. But I have to try.
On our side of the water, gnarly rooted trees lined the bank occasionally petering out to allow a small stony clearing, perfect for chubby feet to toddle upon and splash into the coolness of a river on an early spring day. The other side of the bank, rocks laid flat and then stacked themselves one on top of the other like the craziest pile of gray and brown pancakes, teetering high above our heads and the trees around us.
But really, you had to be there.
I normally hate taking my kids swimming. It always seems like such a chore, all the lathering and pulling of spandex and last minute potty emergencies. I do it because my kids love it, and really, I remember being a child myself and absolutely loving to swim more than other thing on God’s green earth. But when we reached that majestic swimming hole yesterday, I thought to myself, “I could do this every day of my life.” Talk about a conversion experience.
For about an hour and a half, the kids doggy-paddled and climbed the hunched-over rocks sleeping in the middle of the slowly churning current. Lucy, our resident mermaid, slipped through the water like an oily eel, slithering out of sight for a moment, only to pop up seconds later, shrieking with delight and shivering shoulders.
Eventually, I hiked my skirt up, probably provocatively high to some onlookers, and waded out beside the Littles, ever watchful of the curling water, gathering momentum just beyond the place where they played.
“Look at me, Mama!” Abra shouted over and over again. “Look at me, I’m swimming!” Sure enough, she wasn’t. Instead, she floated on her belly and pulled herself along the surface by gripping the stony ground beneath her and slapping her pudgy feet behind her. It most certainly gave the appearance of swimming.
But no matter. She didn’t care. She didn’t watch Lucy’s technique and think, “Really, I should be putting my head in the water, holding my breath, and using smoother, more efficient kicks. Shoot, I really suck at this.” Nope, she did what she was good at and was really proud of herself for it.
“Wow, Abra, you’re doing a great job!” I gushed.
I could learn a few lessons from my 4-year-old.

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