“I’m all out of flair,” I said somberly to my sister this morning. I woke up tired, cranky, and very, very uninspired. Not even more coffee helped. But I clung to one little hope, flickering like some nearly expired candle.
My sister said, “There’s hope of flair. Just remember that.”
And I did have hope that the day could be great. After all, I would do the one thing that always makes me feel good in the summer.
I would put on my bathing suit and go swimming.
The summers between ages 10 and 15, I lived at the pool. I’d walk the mile and a half (in my jelly shoes), with my towel around my neck, show up when it opened, and then close the place down. Once you passed a swim test, the lifeguards let you come without your parents. So that’s what I did, every day, for the three months of summer. That little public pool was my whole world those summers.
I still remember claiming my lounge chair, spreading my towel, and running–with that lifeguard blowing his whistle and booming out the WALK command–and jumping in that pool. I’d stay until dinner, surviving on snack food from a vending machine, race home to eat a meal, and then return until the sun went down. Sometimes I had friends with me, sometimes not. It didn’t matter. I belonged to everybody, and there were goals to accomplish: a front flip on the diving board, a full pool length of holding my breath, a championship in random Marco-Polo or Sharks and Minnows games, or a successful backstroke.
No homework, no chores, no mean girls. Actually, there was a mean girl, and she quickly left me alone when she saw my front flip and my mad skills in the deep end. I was happy, free, and completely myself, floating on my back with the water holding me up and the sun shining down.
Now, I’m older. I have kids of my own who race down to the pool. Our pool has been opened since Saturday, and we’ve been everyday but yesterday because a storm threatened.
I read that afternoon that Rue McClanahan died. Summer nights, I watched “The Golden Girls.” In 1985, Ms. McClanahan told The New York Times that the writers of that show knew how to showcase the many layers of an older woman. She said, “They don’t turn into other creatures. The truth is, we all still have our child, our adolescent and our young woman living in us.”
I thought about that quote this morning as I got our pool towels and bathing suits ready. I’m happy at the pool, even as a woman, because that little girl on the diving board is still alive in me. She’s in there, sometimes buried deep, and sometimes so quiet I can’t remember her. But when I’m in the pool, she’s back. Living with flair means accessing the child in us (and even the teenager) who loved to be alive–coloring, biking, dancing, jump roping, reading or swimming. Happiness has something to do with remembering what we loved and doing those things no matter how old we are.
So even though my bathing suit is the kind with the skirt to hide my stretch marks and cellulite, I’m going to try the diving board today. Who’s with me?