My grandmother used to tell a good story about swimming that I remembered when I was in the pool today. She and my grandfather lived on a lake. They had a great corner lot, so both sides of their gigantic yard backed up to the lake. They bought the place in the 1960s when real estate in that area was pretty low, and when she passed away in 1998, my mom and her siblings sold it to another family. It was sad to see it go, but at the time I didn’t really want to live there. Now, I wonder some days if I would have liked it later.
They had a boat dock. I don’t ever remember my grandmother riding in the boat. I know for sure that she never swam in the lake, although it was a stumpy lake, so most people didn’t swim in it, either. But, if given the choice, it would not have been a horrible endeavor.
The reason she didn’t swim in the lake, however, was not because of its stumpiness or any fear of fish or such. It was because she could not swim. She had never learned how.
I know that there are a lot of people who don’t know how to swim. I hated swimming lessons myself, but I always liked hanging out in the pool and goofing off at the lake. I hated swimming at Girl Scout camp, though, because they had to “test” you to see how good you could swim. I was always embarrassed because I wasn’t as strong a swimmer as some of the other campers. I remember one year I just frankly told them I wasn’t taking their stupid swimming test, at which point they told me that I would have to stay out of the pool all together. I remember sitting outside the pool, as mad as an old wet hen (which I was in fact, since my hair and swimsuit were soaked and I was mad), talking smack about the camp counselor because I didn’t want to take the stupid swimming test. I was about 12 or so. Girls at 12 are awful. I was one of those.
My grandmother’s story is a bit different than mine, though. She never learned to swim because her mother would not let her swim anywhere until she learned to swim.
Let that sink in for a second and then we’ll talk.
(Jeopardy theme song here)
Yes, that’s right. You can’t swim until you learn to swim. That’s like the whole chicken before the egg before the chicken thing, isn’t it?
I know that she never thought it was the smartest thing, either, but legend had it that someone in my great-grandmother’s family had drowned as a young child. She was simply trying to protect her own children from the same fate by keeping them away from the water. I don’t know if she knew how to swim or not. I don’t remember ever asking.
I have found that as I get older, there are so many questions I’d like to ask my ancestors who are now passed away. This is one of those questions. I have, as you can imagine, many more.