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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Back to the Present; a forty-year day-trip.

A pool heated to 90 degrees.
I revisited being fifteen today.  At least, it was exactly how I remember feeling when I was fifteen.
I woke up to a sunny day on Nantucket. Forecast? Pool day.  After eating a huge breakfast of banana, power bar, scrambled eggs, sweet potato home fries, sausage and yes, salad, I donned my costume.  Bathing suit, sun dress and flip flops.  I packed a bag with a book, a pad, pen, water bottle, bathing cap, goggles, sunscreen, and a hat. There is crushed-shell driveway that winds its way through the property to my friend’s pool.  As I set off, bag swinging, the only ripples in my vault backward through time were caused because I had with me a cell phone and I walked with a cane.  In every other way, I recognized the sense of excitement and anticipation I had felt when I had the chance to go a friend’s pool or use a hotel pool when I was fifteen.  In those days, I would think nothing of staying in the water all day.  My mother called me her water baby from the time I was two.  My fingers were water-shriveled for much of each summer growing up, as I remember it. On this exceptional summer morn, I was thrilled to make this excursion to my friend’s pool.  It was a short walk to the ninety degree(!!) pool. (In the interest of full disclosure, as well as another small nod that the hands of time have been spinning, at fifteen, I would never have welcomed such warm water; now it is a gift from the gods and about all I can tolerate).  I stepped through the portal into the elaborate pool enclosure with sweeping vistas and a garden manicured to look natural.  I could do nothing but take an enormously deep breath and breathe it all in.
Getting down to business, I spread my towel on one of the pool chaises, kicked off my flip-flops and tested the water. Ideal.  I applied #50 SPF sunscreen (no more Baby Oil) from head to toe. I found myself slathering extraordinarily extra amounts on my face, chest and hands when a last minute trip to the bathroom revealed a startling image of myself in the mirror.  It was jarring not to see the fifteen year old girl I expected to see in the mirror. I did not tarry with the issue of cognitive dissonance. Instead, I headed back outside.
I adjusted the back of the heavily cushioned pool chair, lowering it for optimal reading comfort.  With help, I was able to open the nearby umbrella so shade was an option. I put my belongings under the umbrella to keep them from roasting. 
Then I settled in to.... well, bask. I mindlessly, gloriously, basked.
The sun made me dozy.  In a slowly kind of dawning way, I realized that the constant torrent of thoughts that have been chasing me in recent months had turned off.  I thought minor, non-disturbing thoughts such as, “Is that bee I hear going to land on me?” (It didn’t)  “Is my friend’s soggy, sea-soaked, Labradoodle going to shake out next to me?” (She did)  “Should I put on my sunglasses or go swimming?”  (I took the plunge.)  I paused to take a snapshot to send to my friend’s daughter of her mother’s crazy friend wearing a white bathing cap and reflective swim googles.
I paused as I stepped down each of the broad steps into the pool; it was three years ago that this pool served as the centerpiece in my rehabilitation after dual hip replacements. How far I had come in three years. To banish such time-placed thoughts, I pushed off and dove under water.
I swam around the perimeter of the pool - a lazy, easy, crawl.  In the deep end, sparkling as light hit them, I spied four quarters. I dove.  First dive, I retrieved three. Second try, I laughed at myself for overlooking the important exhale before the dive.  I didn’t make it to the bottom.  I was annoyed with myself.  I left the quarter submerged. I kept swimming to the deep end of the pool, luxuriating under the flow of the waterfall that cascaded over stones. I played, in and out of the deluge. Suddenly, I pushed off from the rocks, diving from the deepest end, making a sweep uphill following the terrain of the pool, being sure to grab the fourth quarter on my way back up for air. Satisfied, I set it with its mates on the ledge of the pool.
Laps. I swam lap after lap. No one could watch form, comment on breathing technique, or notice when my pace flagged, or picked up.  Growing tired of laps, I did dolphins.  Not the beautiful, graceful ones of my youth – my back resisted, but ones that more resembled back layovers.  Still, fun, and good to know, still possible. I practiced some of the moves I remembered from being on a camp synchronized dance swim team.  I missed having a friend to play with just a little bit….until I had the brilliant notion that I would find a float and read my thriller while making a circuit around the pool driven by the filtration system. When I got out, I practiced Safe Sun. I toweled down and reapplied scads of sunscreen. Then I chose my favorite pool float, stuck on my hat, pushed on my sunglasses and picked up my book.  Using a technique honed over decades of having had my own pool, and swimming in other people’s pools, I gracefully plopped into the float – right hand for balance, left hand holding my book high and dry above the water.
There was no clock that I could see.  Clearly time went by, but it was as if, just for this one magical morning, it had little to do with me.  Suddenly, characters – friends, visitors, staff -  started to appear stage left, then stage right in quick succession.  I got out to start to dry off before joining the family for lunch.  The inevitable intrusion of the present continued. My cellphone rang. My cane fell off the chaise. I was most definitely being called back to the present.
My friend and her daughters returned from a morning of watersports and we met up for lunch.  I ate voraciously.  Again.  Then, my friend suggested we lie by the pool together for a bit.  I returned to the house for a long-sleeved shirt and beach pants – loose, gauzy, but sun resistant.  I knew enough that I had my fill of the sun for the day.  After about half an hour with her, I came inside.  With no premeditation, my bed beckoned. I can think of just about nothing that could have deterred me from lying down on that bed and surrendering to sleep. My last thought before I did?  “I am exactly as drowsy and sun-weary, and untouched by worry I was when I was fifteen.” Then the curtain of sleep fell.

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