You might think hand-digging an in-ground swimming pool would be a daunting task. I wouldn’t know… I was five. I only remember this huge hole in the ground with straight sides. My Uncle was down at the ‘deep’ end with a shovel so I can only assume the hole was hand dug. I had a little wheelbarrow, and I was helping. I don’t know why my cousin Ronnie wasn’t helping too. Maybe he was; I only remember the hole in the ground and my wheelbarrow.
My next memory of that pool was…well, it was a pool. Clear water with painted blue sides and a diving board. Ronnie, he was five too, and I weren’t allowed to go into the ‘deep’ end but we had free access to the shallow side.
It was a bright, sunny day. The family was gathered for the first ‘picnic’ of the season. Lawn chairs were placed around one side of the pool, facing the water, a picnic table sat off to the side, under the shade of a large Oak tree. The house stood empty; everyone was outside enjoying the day.
Ronnie and I were the only ones in the pool. My ever so clever cousin could swim; I couldn’t. But I had my tube to hold me up, plus I could put my feet down and stand; so we splashed and swam in our shallow end and had an all-around blast.
I loved pushing off from the bottom, gliding forward through the sparkling water, pretending I was swimming. Before long, Ronnie wanted to try it too. He could do the push off/glidey part but without the tube it wasn’t long before he’d have to start doggie-paddling or sink. The tube of course, was infinitely to be desired since it eliminated the doggie-paddle part. (Does anyone like to doggie-paddle?)
Off my cousin went, gliding through the water with his head held up by my tube. I watched for a while, standing in the shallow end filling a little plastic bucket with water and pouring it out again. That activity didn’t hold my interest for long. I wanted to glide too! And so I did, pushing off from the bottom, stretching out to lie across the top of the water. Only I didn’t. I sank.
Oh, I came up again but then I sank again. Three times. Is it true that you’ll come up three times before you drown? I’d say so; I did. Why didn’t I just put my feet down and stand up? Who knows. I wasn’t panicked but I knew I was drowning. I didn’t think to stand up. I didn’t think to breathe when I came up. I just thought how sad my mommy was going to be when I died. That was my last thought.
I stood there by the side of the pool, watching my uncle carry me across the backyard to the house. I was just standing there watching his back as he ran. Someone wouldn’t let my mother go into the house with us.
I remember. I remember nothing, black. I remember opening my eyes, my uncle and me on the floor. He was crying. My aunt was standing by the door, on the phone (one of those old wall phones). She was crying too. I had no idea what was wrong with them; I just knew I wanted to go back and swim some more.