19 June 2010

That Time of Year

        School's out! I'm free! Remember that feeling? All those wonderful possibilities await you. What should we do first? Go to the pool. Go to the river. Go to the beach.
        The last day of school was right up there with Christmas and your very own birthday. Nothing could replace that feeling of freedom, even today. Ah, the tragedy of being an adult. Say it out loud, "An Adult." Sounds like something to be avoided at all costs. Sounds like it costs. too.
        As a kid, my summer vacation wasn't always a free for all. For at least part of it, I had to work and go to summer school, which I thought was fun until the reality set in.
        But hours and hours of sunlight and good friends in the neighborhood made for many happy memories.
        And then there were expeditions. When my family went to the beach, a one-hour drive, you would think we were going for six days, not six hours.
        The station wagon would be full with every possible beach accoutrements, plus four kids and an anxious dog.
        My father would insist on leaving at 7 a.m. to beat the traffic, so when we got to the beach, we would be the only ones there.
        It was like "pick a spot, any spot." We got the whole darn foggy beach to ourselves. And the next five hours, the people would start to pour in. By noon, it was wall-to-wall blankets and umbrellas.
        An hour or so after noon, we would pack and leave. It was the best time of the day, and we would be headed out "to beat the traffic."
        Well, it didn't matter a whole lot to me. I'd spend the whole time in the ocean getting thrown around in the waves.
        A regular fish, my Dad would say.
        One time the waves were huge and I had accumulated several thousand grains of sand in my swimsuit, so I dragged myself back to the beach towel.
        That night the evening news said the waves were a record size, and many people had to be rescued from the dangerous conditions. Thank goodness I hit the towel when I did, but I learned the power of water at an early age.
        I had a near drowning experience when I was around 5 years old.
        Mom's friend had a pool, so every once in a while during summer vacation we would get invited to swim for an afternoon. Back in those days little kids who didn't know how to swim wore Styrofoam bubbles on their backs to keep them afloat.
        Well, I was sunning myself and got a little hot, so I jumped into the pool forgetting to put on the bubble and sank like a stone.
        I still remember looking up at the surface of water. It was so beautiful and so far away. Then I realized how badly I needed air. I pushed off the bottom of the pool with my feet and lunged for the steps.
        Boy, when I crawled out of that pool, my heart was racing.
        I took swimming lessons at the Y shortly thereafter and graduated by swimming 50 continuous yards.
        Not too shabby for a regular fish, my Dad would say.

{story first published in The Tribune on June 19, 2003}
{I think I was seven in the photo. Oak Creek, Cottonwood, Arizona}

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Thanks for sharing!