Nostalgia has a way of slipping in without warning when the days are long, the heat is high and children in swimsuits trigger daydreams of youth. I don't mean youth as in missing my 20's (which I sometimes do) or the teen years (which I never do), I mean those glorious years when summer meant no school, no schedule, no structure, no homework for three whole months. Endless days filled with bike ride adventures and frequent trips to the local swimming pool. When the sounds of an ice-cream truck sent you scrambling inside to beg for some coins for a fudgecicle. Summer days when a swimming suit was put on as soon as you woke up and not removed until a parent forced you to remove it to bathe and go to bed.
One specific summer swimming incident springs to mind:
I was nine or ten. My family belonged to the Sports Club which had a pool but the Alta Canyon sports center had just opened where Highland Drive ended and everyone went there, so we begged to go too. These were the outer limits of Sandy at that time, everything beyond was literally sand dunes with this public pool at the entrance. My siblings and I loved swimming. We could (and did) spend hours at the pool playing Marco Polo, doing hand stands or surfing on my dad's back as he crawled along the bottom of the pool. The one luxury my parents consistently indulged in throughout my childhood no matter where we lived was a local pool membership. Perhaps it saved my mother's sanity during the long, hot summer months without school to give her a respite.
When I needed a break from swimming and games in the pool I would jump out of the side and pad back to where my mom was trying to relax with a book trailing wet footprints missing a middle behind me - my arches are so high only the toes, ball and heel of my foot touch the ground unless I roll my foot to the edge. My mom would hold out a beach towel (mine had popsicles on it) in response to my clattering teeth to clear away the goose bumps that were making my bleached arm hairs stand on end atop my browning skin. Sometimes, if it wasn't too breezy I shunned the towel in favor of lying on my stomach on the hot cement, hands pressed firmly at my sides, one cheek against the cement as rivulets of water darkened the sidewalk beneath me. I would shiver and continue to chatter until the sun's rays soaked up the excess pool water. The smell of chlorine and sunscreen mingling with the dusty smell of the cement. I'd squeeze my eyes shut and ball my fists, willing my body to warm up before I ever so carefully lifted my body off the cement to observe the wet impression my body left behind which was quickly being erased in the heat. My odd footprints had already evaporated. Then I would dash back to the pool in the half speed walk/run children create to avoid the life guard's glare and jump back in the pool to see how big my splash was.
On one of those beautiful pool days at Alta Canyon, I decided I needed to jump off the diving board. I swam the width of the deep end to show the life guard I could swim and then scaled the ladder to attempt not just the regular diving board but the high board. I was nervous but trembling with excited anticipation as I stood in line with a puddle forming beneath me wondering if I could really jump off the high dive for the first time. This was the pool everyone in my school went to and on this particular day there were many, many kids I knew.
I faked confidence and scaled the ladder, my heart beating faster as I pushed past each rung. At the top I walked to the edge, grabbed my nose, squeezed my eyes shut and stepped off the end of the board. I was falling, falling, falling - for so very long - until SPLASH! I entered the water and felt my toes touch the bottom of the deep end. I pushed off and kicked my way to the surface. As I bobbed out of the water I wiped my face and looked around to see who had observed my brave jump from such heights. My near-sightedness prevented me from focusing on my mother's face. But wait, some of those faces I could make out looked a little horrified. And were those fingers pointing at me? Are they laughing at me? I did everything right. I didn't belly flop a failed dive, I just slid into the water feet first, I don't even think I made much of a splash.
Then, as I started to swim to the ladder, to my extreme horror, I noticed my swimming suit was no longer fully attached to my scrawny, pre-teen body. The strings that were supposed to be tied firmly behind my neck were floating with the top half of my one piece on the surface of the water in front of me. I dunked back under the water to hide what I was sure was my scandolous nakedness (I had, after all recently started wearing a bra because that's what you wear in 5th grade, even if it isn't needed) and madly scrambled to re-tie the errant strings in a near-choking knot. Meanwhile, the life guard was yelling at me to get out of the way of the next diver and was I'm sure wondering if he would have to climb off his throne to save me, having surely missed or not cared about this little girls wardrobe malfunction.
I'm sure there were tears mixed with pool water as I ran to my mother who claimed to not have noticed a thing and promised no one else saw the incident either. I didn't own another swimming suit with ties until the string bikini of 2002 - which will stay in the storage tub under my bed until I lose 15 pounds or throw it away.