12 June 2012

When I was two or three, I nearly drowned in a California swimming pool with adults probably no more than 10 feet away. By the time they reached me, I was floating face down in the deep end. When they picked me up, my face was blue from holding my breath.

No one had any idea there was anything wrong with me. And here’s a post that explains why you can’t always tell when people are drowning (thanks to Dianne Cameron for the link). If you ever even once in your life plan to be near water, please read it.

I don’t remember that day in the pool, except maybe in dreams. But I was afraid to learn to swim for a long time, and one of the most powerful lessons of my childhood was that adults I trusted (the wonderful counselors at my day camp when I was seven or eight) would jerk me around for my own good. You know the drill: I promise I’ll stand right here. Now swim to me! And then once I was committed, once I was thrashing toward them as if getting there fast was the same thing as learning to swim, they would move back step by step.

Between this and the teacher who pulled out my tooth in the bathroom one day, I was deeply cynical about adults by the age of nine.

I get why the grownups made me learn to swim. I would have done it too. I don’t get the teacher in the bathroom at all, although I have my theories. What interests me now, from this distance, is that they all thought it was for my own good. What interests me is that the counselors lied to me over and over, and I let them because I loved them. I hated my teacher, but you know, she never lied to me once.

And yet, I will still swim to the people I love, until I turn blue in the face. Go figure.

Enjoy your day. Don’t drown.


4 Responses to “Drowning”

  1. barbara sanchez on June 13th, 2012 11:47 am

    It’s worse when the drowning is not physical. You probably know about that , too.

  2. Kelley on June 13th, 2012 12:26 pm

    I do indeed. And there are fewer lifeguards in life than there are at the beach.

  3. bluenote on June 13th, 2012 2:22 pm

    I still have nightmares about that day. You were three years old. My stepmother told me to relax and she would watch you. I closed my eyes and rested in the California sun and suddenly I realized I did not hear you, but I did hear Audrey playing a water game with the little boy who lived next door. I sat upright and saw you floating face down. I screamed like a banshee and jumped in and starting swimming toward you — it was like swimming in jello. In my dreams (nightmares) it still feels like swimming through jello. For months after that horrible day I had to bathe you in the kitchen, sitting on the counter. You would cry if I tried to put you in the water. My darling, thank you for holding your breath.

  4. Jean r on June 14th, 2012 8:18 am

    “like swimming in jello” bluenote writes. Takes my breath away to imagine it!

    How to recognize and respond to acute distress: much to ponder here. Thanks.