I remember lining up perpendicular to a giant public pool, behind rows of other, unknown children. I wore my Tweety Bird bathing suit, and a smooth-dark tan from hours of outdoor play.
In turns, we each stepped forward until our toes hung over the edge of the concrete where an instructor was waiting to receive our jumping bodies into the water. It was a procession. A lineup. A scalding wait before a cooling splash.
That part of swimming lessons, I have no negative memories towards. As for the scalding wait, I was a child -- we were impervious, weren't we? Neither freezing water nor burning sun could keep us from enjoying the summer.
The spine-stiffening feelings come when I remember the deep end. I don't know if it was the norm in 1989 for swim instructors to hold reluctant children under the water for unendurable seconds, or if this particular teacher was merely terrifying in his or her stringency. (Isn't it funny that I don't remember if the instructor was male or female? I only remember the fright...) In the part of lessons that encourage breath-holding and head-dunking, we were ushered to where we could no longer touch bottom, and released from the instructor's arms. I remember the weight of a hand on my head, and one on my shoulder. I remember the rush of water into my ears and the diminishing bubbles I emitted. I remember gasping and choking at the surface, once the lesson had been successfully imparted.
My mom never sent be back. (It's really no wonder I so dislike the feeling of being submerged, now is it?)
All I can say is, Thank God for better swim instructors here in the 21st century.
Mia is in a class with one other student, and her teacher is the picture of joyful encouragement. The peaceful helper. The enthusiastic cheerleader. The skillful instructor.
And Mia has confided that swim lessons are her very favorite thing, ever. She wishes they could last forever and ever into eternity and beyond.
With these kind of wonderful lessons, I wish they could, too.