There are some days when there’s just so much to do and so little time to do it. Recently, when the weather was extremely hot, I was having one of those days. Probably the heat added to the tension and everything seemed to take so much longer than I’d thought it should. I’d promised myself a half an hour at the pool but as the morning wore on it seemed like a prudent idea to forget about my outing. Still, I looked at the calendar and realized there wasn’t going to be another time I could go to the pool that week. It was now or never.
Changing into my suit I grabbed a towel and almost ran (It was too hot to really run) to the pool.
“That’s it?” another woman asked me.
“I got what I needed,” I replied.
I had. My joints no longer ached from the heat. My wet hair kept me cool. Most important I did what I needed to do all afternoon without feeling stressed. The joys of the summer swimming pool!
Knowing how to swim is something many of us take for granted but it wasn’t always that way. My mother, growing up in the thirties, never learned. That was the time of the polio epidemic and her father, a doctor, suspected the disease could be spread in water. Although she’d had a happy childhood she never knew the joys the summer swimming pool.
Perhaps that’s why she was so adamant about me learning to swim. I vaguely remember as a very little girl going downtown to the YMCA with a cousin for swimming lessons in an indoor pool. I did not like the overwhelming smell of the chlorine but I learned to stay afloat.
A couple of years later my parents joined a place called Wagon Wheel. It was a sort of rustic country club several miles out of town where one could swim, fish, ride a paddleboat or canoe, picnic, and go horseback riding. Five days a week my mother and I would spend the day there coming home only in time to serve my father dinner. Most Sundays he’d join us. When he came he’d swim with me. My mother never did more than stand in the shallow end and splash water on her shoulders.
Rather she spent her time sunning, smoking, reading and visiting with the other mothers. As a child I was sure she was having a good of a time as I had. Now, looking back, I wonder how much she really did enjoy those hot days in the sun. Was all the sweat worth getting a suntan and socializing with her summer friends? Or was she doing it because she wanted her child to have a good summer?
I can’t answer my questions but I do know that, whether she knew it or not, she was fulfilling a Torah commandment in making sure I knew how to swim well. As I mark seventeen years since her death I hope she knows how much I appreciate her enabling me to have the joys of the summer swimming pool.