Friday, July 07, 2006

Summer Swimfest!

When I was a kid I spent a large portion of my summer holidays being a pool rat. There was a huge outdoor swimming pool 2 blocks from my house and that is where you normally found me in the summers from 1978-1984. I always went with my sister or my friend. We'd show up just after noon when the pool opened and stay all afternoon. At dinner time we'd head back home, eat, and then wait until Mom said it was OK to go back to the pool, where we would stay until closing. If we were lucky we'd have some money to buy ice cream from the "Dickie Dee", (this was basically a big freezer mounted to the front of a bike with bells that some poor kid rode around town during the hottest days in the prairie summer looking to make a couple of bucks), which usually stopped by a couple of times a day.

One of our favorite pastimes was to jump in the water then come out and lay down on the hot cement beside the pool and watch the water burn away from the heat. You know how people say it's hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk? Well with this activity we were the eggs. Once the water was all dried up we'd repeat the process. This was the 70's when people obviously didn't worry too much about skin cancer.

One of the biggest events at the pool was passing the test to be allowed into the deep end. The test was swimming the width of the pool 2 times. In those days I was what you'd call a flailer. Lots of arms, legs and splashing but not alot of going anywhere. I knew I didn't have the skills to pass the test so I just went into the deep end hoping to go unnoticed. No such luck. The lifeguards would always catch me and make me attempt the test. I'd swim my two lengths and when I was done (about 20 minutes later) I'd look up at the lifeguard expectantly and get denied. Damn!

After about a dozen failed attempts I finally made it to the big leagues. Now I could hang out with the big, cool kids. The deep end. It was completely seperate from the shallow end. We didn't want those shallow end babies swimming with us deep enders. The deep end was 20 feet deep. Deep enough to make your ears hurt from the pressure at the bottom. But the greatest feature was the diving board. This little plank opened a whole new world of fun. Canonball, Jackknife, Ballbreaker, Swamp and the classic Belly Flop. These were my specialty dives. Always guaranteed to impress the ladies.

Later on I took real swimming lessons at the YMCA and was basically swimming constantly. One night on a vacation with my Grandparents I swam 100 lengths like it was nothing. (Oh if only those lifeguards could have seen me) Then at some point I just stopped swimming. I would say that between grade 9 and this year I probably went swimming less than 10 times.

This year I'm back in the water. This is the first year I've owned a bathing suit since the 80's. The kids are swimming addicts. All three of them. In past years when the kids have gone swimming I either stayed home or just watched them. The biggest barrier keeping me out of the water was my self conciousness over my weight. You see in the last 5 years my weight went up from around 155 pounds to 171 pounds. Probably not too bad by most standards but unfortunately I have very high standards, especially when it comes to myself. This spring I decided to do something about it and have got myself down to 160 pounds and have given myself the green light for shirtless activites (my torso hasn't seen the sun in a good 5 years).

We went out swimming two weeks ago and for the first excursion to the pool in years we went to the very same outdoor pool that I frequented all those summers ago. It hasn't changed in the slightest. My poor sheltered back and shoulders got burned to a crisp, even without pretending to be a fried egg. I've been having a great time and am very glad to have gotten over the self consciousness enough to get back out doing such a fun activity with the family.

I haven't yet ventured into the deep end but when I do I hope the lifeguard makes me take the test.

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