I’m not sure if learning how to swim before you learn how to walk and talk is a state-wide phenomenon in Florida, or maybe my parents are just crazy overachievers, but either way, the truth is my first “swimming” experience was at the ripe old age of 1 when I was thrown into the pool in my diaper in hopes that I would find the surface. Of course, hearing this now, I’m sure this traumatic experience at such a young age led to some permanently scaring psychological issues, but I guess it’s too late to change that now. Let me pause really quickly and admit, I knew none of this information until last night, so I will have to credit my mother for this part. Apparently, the first step in teaching a baby how to swim is called “drown proofing,” which sounds to me like a pretty important step. Drown-proofing consists of swimming to the top and flipping over to float on your back. So I was officially “drown proofed” at 22 months and hated every minute of it.
By my third birthday, after a year of regular swimming lessons, I was able to swim across the pool and get my head up for air along the way, which, again, according to my mother, I was very happy about. I think it was around that time that I really began to love swimming because every single birthday party or celebration I had from then until high school graduation was a back-yard pool party. It was also around this time that my swim instructor got the idea that if she brought candy for me to have after every lesson, I would be much more inclined to swim well for her. Whether the two are related is something I will leave up for discussion.
If someone were to ask me what comes to mind when I think about swimming, it would only be memories of brightly colored bathing suits, orange push-up pops after swim lessons, noodle fights, summer barbecues, new years eve skinny dipping etc. Swimming has always been a fun, recreational activity for me, never a sport. (Unless it’s Olympics season, and I’m obsessing over Ryan Lochte.)
There are many things I love about swimming and just being in the water in general, but my favorite is very peculiar. Chlorine. You know how in the movie 50 First Dates, the main character, Lucy, is obsessed with the smell of Henry Roth’s gross fishy hands? For me it’s chlorine. Not so much the terrible burning, red eyes aspect of it, but the smell. I can smell my hands for hours after being in a pool that day and still be able to get a whiff of that wonderful scent. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it reminds me of home, or fond childhood summer memories, but there’s nothing like the smell of chlorine.
To say I love swimming is an understatement, but I think my love for swimming has a much different meaning than the love an avid open-water competitive racer has for the sport. My love of swimming involves tanning on the beach, copious amounts of blowup pool toys, and playing Marco Polo until your fingers and toes are pruney.