When the last bell rang in June, it didn’t just mean I would have three glorious summers off from school. It meant that the following Monday the neighborhood swimming pool would open, and I would spend most of my summer swimming and playing in chlorine-filled waters with little brothers and childhood friends.
Mama decided I needed swimming lessons the summer before I attended first grade, right before my sixth birthday. She caught me swimming in a small pool wearing a long skirt over my suit; I pretended that I was a mermaid and would hold my breathe and swim underwater.
My first week, I progressed quickly through each lesson. By the end of the week, I had skipped the baby pool, and began swimming in the big pool. During the second week, my instructors also had me diving in the diving pool. To help me practice swimming underwater, they would toss weighted rings into the deep ends of the water. Mama was quite proud and bragged how I had taken to swimming like a fish in the sea.
On the day they had me dive off the diving boards, I started on the low dive. First I jumped in, and then I sliced through cool water. It was the last day of swimming lessons, and I desperately wanted to jump off the high dive. Finally, my instructor asked if wanted to go off of the high dive. I grinned, and my head bounced up and down in affirmation, excited to finally have my chance. He made me swear that I would jump and not dive. I promised. Then we both looked at my mom. Without talking, we both knew we would have to perform a covert operation. Mom would not have allowed her only daughter that had not even turned six quite yet, jump off the high dive at our local pool.
We both glanced at my mom who was visiting another woman while Tommy played on a blanket and David slept in his stroller. He gave me a nod, and I climbed out of the pool. Quickly I scooted along the hot cement to the much anticipated high dive. In a flash, I scaled the ladder and walked along the board while holding onto the guard rails. It was a lot higher than I anticipated, but I was not backing down, for I was excited to perform my latest conquest. The thousands of butterflies fluttering in my belly and I had this; nothing would stop us from going off the deep end, so to speak.
Once in place, my instructor hollered, “Mrs. Reeder!” She glanced in his direction. When he looked up, she followed his gaze. From my high perch, I could see the look of utter disbelief on her face. She quickly jumped to her feet, and before she could tell me to “get down this instant,” I jumped. My mom ran to the edge of the pool, and for a split second, I thought she was going to jump in after me.
Hitting the water, I fell into the murky silence. Sunlight flickered above me, and I swam in that direction. As my head broke through the blue water, I took a deep breath and smiled; I was proud of my feat. I paddled to the edge. Mom rested on her knees, waiting for me to arrive safely at the side of the diving pool. My instructor gave me a boost out of the waters, and mom grabbed me and hugged her dripping daughter closely.
It was quite a day, one that I would never forget. And that night at supper, mom replayed the entire story, so my dad would hear about his daredevil daughter. My father looked at me and smiled, and the little girl enjoyed her celebrity status for the evening. I may not have won a diving award, but that evening I discovered something even better. I had earned my parents’ admiration.