Growing up, summers revolved around the water.
Even though we were never beach kids, during the humid Southern summers we were suburban pool kids. I don’t remember even learning how to swim, I think it was just something that happened to me.
Summer swim team was a formative experience that still, over twenty years later, brings back clear memories. Namely screaming children on hot July nights, sweaty parents crowded around starting blocks with timers, and giant pixy stix candy. The smell of chlorine is nostalgic to me.
At age five I was on the neighbourhood Winchester Waves, and I couldn’t have been more than eight when I started riding my bike to and from practice, less than a mile from our house on Earlswood Drive. I would ride my purple banana-seat bike (I think it had unicorns painted onto it somehow; there was definitely a tall flag on the back), and I remember looking down one morning on my way to practice and loving how my new white Keds, purchased from Wal Mart, looked. They were too new to be dirty yet, in striking contrast to the black pedals.
Swim team meant cute assistant coaches who were in college, an unfathomable age that represented so much more than university. Summers at the pool were full of Little Ceasar’s yardlong pizzas that sold for about $10, 4th of July holidays spent partaking in diving board contests and hunting for coins on the bottom of the pool, and a grudging dislike for the short”adult swim” that occurred every hour or so, relegating all of the kids to the side while our parents took a merciful break.
Swimming was one of the few, or really the only sport I participated in growing up, but it lit a competitive edge. More than that, it defined those summer days. I loved the ribbon ceremonies, the relays, the meets that went until 9 that gave me a credible reason to stay up past 7:30. When Diana got a most improved award at the end of season banquet, I remember being unspeakably proud. (I also remember a very young Gracie regularly throwing up before meets so she wouldn’t have to dive off the block, then chatting up every adult in sight for the rest of the evening.)
Lately, I’ve been taking early morning refuge from the inescapable summer heat at outdoor community pools. Even 6:30am isn’t early enough to avoid sun harsh enough to create tan lines, so my childhood racerback tan has returned.
There aren’t many places that feel more like home to me, summer or not, than the water.