Non-swimming chunky seven-year-olds and in-ground pools do not mix. Katie Hitchcock was having a pool party. I had to go. All of my friends would be there.
Crap, I thought. I can’t swim. Oh well, I can’t not go just because I can’t swim. I will stay in the shallow end.
D-day arrived. I suited up in my hot pink one piece with the black and white checkered flag ruffle around the waist. Well, we’ll call it a waist, but it was more like an inner tube. Ruffles are supposed to be dainty. The word ruffle even sounds dainty, but dainty doesn’t match my rotund stomach. My pudgy legs rubbed against each other as I walked through the house preparing for the pool party. My plump backside combined with my shapely stomach pulled the ruffle up in the back and down in the front, my own version of Saturn’s rings. Even though I was only seven, I knew my body wasn’t as appealing as some of the other seven year olds that would be there. Swimmies? Not so much! Do those things even work? I will be the laughingstock of the school on Monday. Life vest? No, not really. Who wears life vests in a pool? I’ll just stay in the shallow end.
A trail of dust from the country road tagged along behind Mama’s brown Oldsmobile so that anyone would have been able to follow our path without even knowing where we were going. When the quick ride was over, I pushed the large door open, rolled out of the back seat, and surveyed the area, hands on hips. An aura of the islands drifted through the air. Tropical fragrances lingered in my nose, enticing me to follow it to the pool. Laughs and sudden bursts of water erupting from the pool tempted me to venture toward the enticing blue waters. Maybe I can just sit by the pool and look cute in my bathing suit. Yeah right. I have to get in the water. Nobody wants to look at Miss Piggy.
I put on a happy face, and as if I were a member of the circus, I bounced to the pool where all the other kids were already swimming. My black and white checkered tutu made my round frame seem to roll through the air. As soon as I rounded the large bushes, Mom lagging behind loaded with the appropriate swimming accessories, I surveyed the scene to scope out my plan of attack. How am I going to swim without actually swimming? Nobody will have to know. My eyes shot across the pool like a security laser scanning a building. Kimberly is in the deep end. The DEEP end. I can’t let her be cooler than me.
“Come on, Jennifer! Jump in! It’s so awesome,” a shrill voice screamed.
I slowly made my way down the steps, smiling as my feet trudged through the water. Step one. Step two. Step three. Water, coming midway up my chest, enveloped my body. A wave of relief overcame me. Hey, I can actually stand up in here. Maybe I won’t see my drowning today after all. At first, my body moved timidly through the water, and eventually I became an actual part of the party.
“Hey . . . wanna play Marco Polo?” Shannon, the dorky one, snorted with a yell, her buck teeth showing and her nose crinkled.
“Yeah!” everyone shouted in unison as the discussion erupted of who would be “It” the first time.
Kimberly, my second-grade nemesis, was delegated as the first “It.” Oh she would be the first one to be it. My eyes glared in her direction. Brat. Continuing the rhythm of every Marco Polo game, the children yelled their corresponding parts.
All the kids rushed to the deep end of the pool. Deep end? What? Why? How? My thoughts raced. I know. I will get on the edge and hold on. I can’t drown that way! I don’t know who this Marco Polo guy is, but he is NOT gonna drown me! I placed my fingers on the jagged concrete edge of the pool. My right hand extended, gripped the edge; my body flowed toward my right hand as I quickly moved my left hand to follow. As my fingers passed over the rough concrete, I wondered how long I could handle the sharp pain. My hands and body followed each other like a well-oiled machine. The number six flashed before my face, marking the depth of the water. I did it! I made it to the deep end! I can do this without dying! Awesome! Continuing to inch around the parameter of the pool, I ignored the Marco Polo game, stuck in my own world of non-swimming bliss.
“Time for hot dogs,” Katie’s mom yelled with a squeaky desperate-housewife-from-the-fifties voice. She looked like Betty Crocker with perfectly curled hair, red lipstick, and a short around-the-waist red and white checkered apron protecting her clothes from the terror of seven-year-olds.
I slothfully made my way to the pool steps. I was glad that I had survived the day in the pool. Arriving safely back on land, I smeared both of my hands across my stout stomach to wipe away the water. I winced, remembering the coarse edges of the pool, but not letting a little sore fingers deter me from my food. Making my way toward the glass French doors, I gazed at my reflection on the glass. I don’t remember this bathing suit having a red “X” across the front of it. My sore fingers couldn’t crush the pride I felt after surviving the party.
It wasn’t long before I knew how to swim. I also invested in a new bathing suit.