This morning I sprayed my shower floor with bleach before I showered. Standing there in the spray with my eyes closed and the scent of chlorine wafting all around me, I was suddenly back in the shower house at Frankfort Park, where I took swimming lessons every summer for years. I breathed in the smell and felt the freedom of childhood seep back into my bones. I progressed through the Red Cross course, from a raw Beginner to Senior Lifesaving, and never did learn a decent Butterfly stroke. Fortunately, that wasn’t necessary to pass the test.
I remember the little red, white and blue swimsuit with a ruffly skirt that I either wore several years or had in several sizes. I remember that first dizzying leap from the high dive and the time a girl in my class had a bathing suit malfunction and I had to help her hold it together while she scuttled to the dressing room. I remember Alberta, the chunky teacher who hardly ever got IN the water, but actually was a fairly decent teacher in spite of it. I remember the test in lifesaving class where we had to take off our jeans and make a life preserver out of them.
But some of the best memories of swimming lessons happened while I wasn’t swimming. I remember the concession stand across the park where I bought Bottle Caps and Pixie Stix and Zotz candy (anyone else remember that?) and watched the fascinating process of cotton candy production. We made a lot of imaginary worlds in that park, put on lots of shows in the grandstand, and just pretty much ran wild, with no adults present to interfere with our creative play. It was a great time….