I hate the water. The water hates me. Wouldn't it make sense to just leave each other alone? It had worked for the past thirty years. But now the water and I would be thrown together, forced to become friends. Oh, that husband of mine! It's really my own fault, marrying a man who practically swam out of the womb! Desperately wanting me to share his love of the water, he encouraged me to confront my fears, to face them head on.
"What if one of our children was drowning?" he asked. "You wouldn't be able to save them!" I suggested getting our children personal lifeguards. He just rolled his eyes and shoved the brochure for the YMCA adult swimming lessons in my hand.
Now I stood at the edge of the pool, waiting for my turn to jump in. I watched Rodney, the handsome, muscular swimming instructor, help Margaret to the safety of the pool's edge. Margaret huffed and puffed, trying to stay afloat without Rodney's help. Then again, maybe she was faking it, hoping Rodney WOULD reach out to help her. But Rodney kept on treading water, listlessly watching as Margaret struggled. She swallowed a mouthful of chlorine and flailed her arms, reaching for the edge. She barely made it, gulping air.
"Okay, Jen, you can do it. This is the last lesson for the polliwogs. Jump in, swim to the side, and you'll graduate to the Minnows." The smile on Rodney's face was a bit annoying. I knew he was trying to be encouraging but he came across as condescending, speaking to me like I was three years old.
I peered into the water. It was deep. As in ten - endless - feet. What if I got a cramp? I imagined myself sinking to the bottom. I could die! I thought. My heart began to pound through my bathing suit.
"S-sorry, Rodney," I gasped. "P-panic attack."
"Good try, Jen. Come on. You can do it."
It had only worked the first time. Then Rodney caught on to my stalling tactics.
"Can't we move over a few feet to the shallow end?" I pleaded. I was truly willing to get down on my hands and knees right here on the hard, wet pool tile and beg. I could doggy-paddle in the shallow end, where I knew, in the case of an emergency, my feet could find the bottom.
"Another good try. But no."
"Has anyone ever drowned in your class?" I asked, narrowing my eyes.
"Jen! We're wasting time. I'm here. You won't drown, I promise." Famous last words.
Enough stalling. The time had come. I plugged my nose. Wait. How could I paddle if I was plugging my nose?
"Does anyone have a noseplug I can borrow?" I asked, glancing around at the other adult students. They answered me with impatient, angry looks. Class was already running ten minutes behind schedule.
I really did want to graduate, even if it was only to the Minnows. I wanted to make my husband proud. I wanted to be able to save my kids if they were in trouble. Or even just play with them in water deeper than up to my knees. I imagined myself swimming with my children. Skiing behind the speedboat my husband bought. Riding on the back of a dolphin! Okay. That's a little much. But suddenly, I wanted more than anything to graduate! I desperately wanted to be a Minnow!
With that thought, I plunged myself into the water, courage rising up in me like the water level in my washing machine. The last thought I had as I hit the water was, "what was I thinking!!"
Then I started to sink.
But before I had time to panic, pray, or pass out, Rodney's strong arms swooped me up to the top of the water and over to the side. Graduation was obviously beyond my grasp. I would not be a Minnow today.
I enrolled in Polliwogs one more time before finally graduating to the Minnows. I had a lot to keep me motivated this time, including the trip to the Bahamas my husband bribed me with. What a sense of accomplishment it was when I received my certificate! My husband and kids couldn't have been more proud. I even received hearty congratulations from Rodney but I couldn't tell if he was happy for me or simply relieved to see me go.
I realized that my fear was what first kept me from graduating. It was only after I replaced that fear with faith that I was able to emerge into open waters and experience victory. Who knows? Riding on a dolphin's back may not be too far-fetched after all.
Lynda! This is fascinating! I loved every single line. I never smiled so much all the way through an article. What talented writing and what a wonderful experience. I, like your husband, was born for the water. Congratulations on your exciting journey and graduation! Next... on to join us mermaids!