I consider swimming a survival skill and enrolled Caroline in lessons at six months old. We attended weekly "Mommy and Me" classes, which she delighted in, and I managed. I always felt self-conscious in my "body shaper", armor-like swimsuit, with what seemed like a pool full of dads. (Andy is the family anti-swimmer. I've only seen him swim once. In 2006. In Puerto Rico.) All was well in the pool until Caroline turned three and "Mommy" wasn't allowed in with "Me" anymore. A series of private swim lessons (in which Mommy slowly worked her way out of the pool) ended my near nervous breakdowns fighting Caroline as she screamed at the top of her lungs in refusal to swim without me. Everybody was a happy clam at her fifth birthday and she swam with a bubble strapped to her back and I even floated around a bit while Char shrieked in the arms of another mom.
When I was a little girl, I loved to swim. I carried around a jean purse with a bikini and a Tiffany tape, you know just in case we ran into a pool during our travels. "Oh, what's that Aunt Alice? It's too bad that I didn't bring my swimsuit because you have a pool at your house? Why, look at that! I just happen to have a swimsuit in this here jean purse, along with a Tiffany tape. We can swim along to I Think We're Alone Now. As a youngin', I was prepared for any swmimmer-tunities that swam my way.
While pools were few and far between, I grew up a block from a pond and we went there daily in the summer. I'd harass my mom every morning until she'd finish her housework and we'd eat lunch and then walk over to the family's private beach. I'd spend hour upon hour swimming, flipping, perfecting handstands and somersaults. I'd call out to my mom, "Watch me! Mommy! Watch this!" and Mom, who was lubed up with baby oil, smoking a butt, and reading a romance novel, would glance up and shout back, "Wow! Good job!" before turning back to her book. She never got in, ever, claiming that the pond was full of snakes. For 33 years, I never believed her, until last summer, when we had two snake sightings two days in a row. I refused to get back in that water. Caroline was more upset about a dirty Band-Aid floating by the dock.
I suppose if I'd seen a snake as a kid, I would have cared less. We may even have seen a snake or two and I can't remember. All I remember is how much fun it was to play in the water, the wonderful feeling of weightlessness and the sensation of cold water touching my sun-kissed skin. Some of my very best childhood memories are from our summer days at the lake.
During the long, cold winters up state, I frequently question why I live here but in the summer, I have no doubts. Yes, I love the rolling hills, and the star-filled night skies, and fresh air. What I really love is the lake. Our lake is majestic. It's not a pond by any means. Around 10 miles long and perhaps a mile wide, our lake glimmers. The turquoise water reflects on a sunny day like hundreds of diamonds. Three miles from the head of the lake is a small beach that juts out a bit. Three-mile point, or 3mp as I've come to call it, is our little piece of paradise.
When the weather is right, which was nearly every day this summer, I don't see any reason to do anything other than go to the lake. Who needs to do laundry or clean bathrooms when our gilmmering beauty awaits us? After a week or so, we developed a good routine. My beach bag was refilled each evening with towels, goggles, and sundresses. I became a master sandwich maker and cooler packer. I could round up the kids, suits on, lotion applied, floaties packed, and be at the lake by 10 am every day. I'd tell myself we'd just stay for a few hours, yet as the sun warmed the sand and the girls splashed in the water, I couldn't pull myself away. We'd stay until dinner, and leave only when the girls could barely keep their tired eyes open.
We had good moments and bad moments at the lake. The lifeguards learned the girls' names. We saw old friends and made new friends there. We laughed there. We cried there. Caroline became a full-fledged water addict there. She perfected her handstand and practiced her front crawl there. We jumped off the dock holding hands. Charlotte destroyed sand castles and chased seagulls there. She snoozed on a blanket under a tree and poured sand in her hair. We all became as tan as we've ever been. Our hair lightened and freckles flecked our skin. We'd swim and then get out of the water to dry off in preparation to go home, just to get hot again and run back into the water. At the lake, time stands still.
Yesterday was our last official day at the lake, since 3mp closes for the season on Labor Day. We went to say good-bye to an old friend, at least for a while. As usual, we stayed for hours, until the late summer sun faded and the end-of-day water chilled our sunburned skin. As we drove out of the park and down the road, we rolled down our windows, letting the our hair blow in the wind. The girls called out to the glimmering water as we left it behind, "Good bye, our lake! Good bye! I love you!"
Thank you, our lake. Thank you for the memories. See you next summer.