Back Around the House II: Learning how to swim


Swimming is a great summer pastime for many people. Unfortunately it never worked that way for me. My first experience with the local park swimming pool was almost my last.

A very nice neighbor lady offered to take my younger brother and me to the pool with her daughter and son who were also 10 and 5 years old. We could hardly wait to get there. Back then the swimming pool was where the shuffleboard court and the skate park are today.

There was only one rectangular pool which went from about 18 inches to deeper than I ever wanted to go. At about the five-foot level, there was a heavy rope stretched across the pool. I thought it was to warn short swimmers the water was getting deeper. There was a lifeguard on a really high chair watching the swimmers and the pretty girls.

The neighbor’s mother told us girls we could go as far as the rope, and she would stay at the shallow end with the little boys. She didn’t want to get wet. She just wanted to get a tan. That was in the pre-tanning beds era. She didn’t know I had never gone swimming in my life.

I began in the shallow end, splashing water. As the day wore on I got braver. Gradually I moved to deeper water, sat on the side of the pool and dropped in. When my feet hit bottom, I bounced up and down, totally entranced with the buoyancy of the water.

I learned to point my toes straight down as I jumped into the water, just like Esther Williams, a swimming movie star. I climbed out of the pool and moved to the edge of what I thought was the five-foot water. I jumped off the side again, into the water. Unfortunately I was still in the four-foot area. My toes crunched into the cement bottom of the pool. Oh pain! Even worse was the fear that somebody saw me do something really stupid.

Getting out of the water was a real challenge because I couldn’t stand any pressure on my toes.

I finally managed to drag myself up on the edge. My friend’s mom suspected something was wrong when I made no effort to get back into the pool. I wasn’t about to tell her what I had done. I insisted I was just resting. Finally she convinced me it was time to go home. I don’t remember how I managed to walk to her car, but I do know I had no desire to return to the swimming pool until about 20 years later.

Avoiding the pool was not especially difficult for me. Most of my friends didn’t swim either. The difference was they knew how. I never learned.

I really didn’t miss it until Bill and I went to Celina with friends. Doris and I would sit on the shore and watch our sons play while our husbands fished. Then Bill and Marvin decided to rent a boat and they took our two little sons out in the boat to teach them how to fish.

Doris and I stayed on shore talking and reading. She was fine. They lived at Wayne Lakes. Both she and her son knew how to swim. My son and I didn’t. What if the boat tipped over? I’d just have to stand on the shore and scream. The time had come to learn how to swim.

So there I was, a young mother of four, reporting to the swimming pool for the evening adult beginning class. Clarence Gueth was the instructor. We had met before.

He looked at me in disbelief. “Floyd, I can’t believe you don’t know how to swim,” he announced in a somewhat louder than conversational tone. I softly admitted my ignorance. He snorted and ordered the class into the pool.

There were five of us, all female. The other four got into the pool. I just stood there. Mr. Gueth stared at me and then at the pool. “Is there a problem?” he asked.

I couldn’t explain to him that my toes were beginning to ache again from my mistake all those years ago. So I just pointed to a puddle between me and the pool and said, “I’d have to walk through that puddle to get into the pool.”

Clarence Gueth was a very patient man, but at that moment he raised his eyes to the heavens and the look on his face clearly said, “Why me, Lord?”

Next time I’ll tell you how I almost learned to swim.

Author’s note: This column was first printed in the Greenville Advocate on June 2, 2004.

By Kathleen Floyd

Back Around the House II

Kathleen Floyd is a volunteer citizen columnist, who serves The Daily Advocate readers weekly with her column Back Around the House II. She can be reached at [email protected]. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.

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