GROWING UP WET
When I was six, we joined the Jewish Community Center which boasted an Olympic size swimming pool. Immediately I was drawn to the water and the diving boards at the deep end. Since I couldn’t swim the lifeguards didn’t think this was in my best interest and returned me, repeatedly, to my mother.
Not long after that, she signed me up for lessons for which I will always be grateful. The water became my safe haven. I pretended the pool was the ocean and imagined myself as a mermaid surrounded by sea creatures.
Nine years ago fantasy became something of a reality when my husband Jan and I had the joy of attending our eldest son’s wedding in St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands.
Since Shannon proposed to Sayda there they decided it was the perfect place for their simple ceremony. He jokingly said they chose a spot on one of the island’s mountains so I wouldn’t swim away during their vows.
As we made the descent into St. Thomas, I gazed at gleaming white sand and water so clear I almost believed I could see the ocean floor from the plane. My skin tingled with anticipation. I could almost taste saltwater.
For eight days we ate, drank and made merry in a tri-level villa on St. John we shared with a few members of Sayda’s family. Sauvignon Blanc and seared Ahi were plentiful.
Each day we took the ferry from St. John to St. Thomas for sight-seeing. Lush hills and mountains surround the islands like an imperial crown.
Although I’ve swum in the ocean before and in lakes, nothing compared to the thrill of snorkeling along the underwater nature trail in Magen’s Bay in St. Tomas or exploring Water Lemon Cay in St. John. While I didn’t physically become a mermaid, the sea became a place of enchantment.
My eyes feasted on purple fan coral, yellow tangs and crimson starfish. As water takes on the shape of its container, I took on the shape of the water in an indescribable oneness. Unfettered by the mundane, I embraced the sea and it welcomed me home.
After the wedding, we said our farewells to our children, newly extended family and the Virgin Islands to return to jobs and everyday life. I still swam every morning at the YMCA but it would never be quite the same.
As my passion for writing grew, along with a series of novels, I found less and less time for swimming. Without realizing what I was sacrificing, I let my 24 Hour Fitness membership lapse and stopped swimming altogether.
As good fortune has it, life has balanced out some and there’s a fitness center less than a mile from our house replete with a lap pool. For now I don’t have time to go more than once or twice a week but it fulfills a deep need. It took less than a month to rebuild my stamina.
Landlocked in the Midwest, I head for the pool as often as I can and dream of the ocean. While I’d prefer to be snorkeling among the fish and coral, swimming is my greatest pleasure. Never am I more aware of myself. Every bone, tendon and muscle is engaged. Once more I’m a child and the water is my safe haven.