April 23, 2008

The tarzan stroke

“If we had done that you would have drowned.” This was the answer my parents gave about why they didn’t purchase one of the many houses located on the water in Highland Lakes, New Jersey. They purchased their house directly in between two picturesque lakes (yes, the two on the left), for $26,000, in what I would guess was 1963 or ’64. Granted, I grew up with an acre of land awash in nature, complete with babbling brook, but Highland Lakes isn’t what you would call a real estate hotbed. When my parents moved there, they actually had to sled in their food from about a half mile away if it snowed. They could have had any piece of land they desired. I think they could have had an island if they wanted.

So, why the fear of drowning? It’s simple really. My father grew up in Manhattan and my Mother grew up in Queens. The water they saw as children was either spouting out of a fire hydrant or had a fragrant bouquet of hot dogs boiling in it. Naturally, when they moved 50 miles west of the city the crickets weren’t the only thing they were scared of. By the time I got around to taking swim lessons it was too late. I must have been around six or seven, because I remember being much more fascinated with the way my teacher was poured into her swimsuit than learning any strokes. I was awful, but I always wanted to go back. If my mother had ever asked to see how I was progressing she would have known something was amiss. I bet that if you asked my brother about his experience he would relate the same memory. Damn, I even remember her name.

Today Annie started swim school. I know, sweet segue. The mothers of two children in Gymboree have been telling me how their kids are like fish in the water lately and the jealousy got to be too much. On Monday I signed Annie up and today at 10:45 she entered the pool for the first time. Now, if you grew up like I did this will come as a complete shock to you. My mother and brother thought that I was joking when I told them. It went pretty much as you would expect. Annie cried 90% of the time while I held on for dear life. I was able to calm her down in the beginning, but the first time the teacher helped her “swim” under water to me, we were both in complete shock.

This probably sounds a bit like torture, but they assure me that I should withhold judgment and that by week three she will be confident and happy. Funny though, that there were kids twice Annie’s age screaming more than she was. Like anything else when it comes to teaching children (sleeping, eating, clapping), repetition is the key. For my little girl Pavlov knew best. Ring, ring.


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