Thursday, March 1, 2007

Life of a Teeange Girl Swimmer

A month ago my daughter competetd in the State 4A Swim Championships. When she was in the pool pulsing through her 100 butterfly, I couldn't help but thinking of the countless hours that brought her to that point. (By the way, I think anyone who can contort their body through the pool with any semblance of a butterfly rhythm at at all deserves the highest praise!)

So I thought of the first time she ever got into a pool. She was about one. She wore one of the swimsuit/lifejackets all in one. She looked like a bobbing round bubble holding onto my hands and squealing and kicking. I knew then that she loved the water.

Then there were summer swim lessons at the pool when she was four, five, six, seven, eight, and nine where she'd get slathered down with sunscreen before her class. She'd protest when it was time to get out--beg to stay in longer. Thirty minutes was a joke of a swim lesson for her. She wanted more.

There were summer afternoons at Lake Hebgen, Montana, where she'd jump off the end of the pier and stay in the lake the rest of the day.

In third grade she decided she'd join the local swim club. That meant more pool time--much more in fact, and a lot more running around for me, the chauffeur. Three days a week for 90 minutes at a time. She was in heaven.

Then the better she got, the more she moved up, and the longer the practice. Her meets were two-day affairs, sometimes hours each day. They moved slowly and methodically. She'd chew on her goggles in anticipation of her race. She still chews on her goggles and paces the side of the pool. I could always find her in the crowd, just look for the kid pacing with half a pair of goggles stuffed in her mouth.

She and her Dad would pore over the meet sheets, looking at other swimmer's times and thinking about what she's swim at the next meet.

Ninth grade crept up on us. She was still in junior high but could now could officially join the high school team. Since she'd been swimming competively since 4th grade, she was autmatically on the varsity team. High school meets were a lot more fun for her and the family. They were half the time, twice the spirit, and three times the fun. Butterfly was her stroke.

She worked her guts out. Her Dad drove her to the 5:30 am practice three mornings a week since I couldn't open my eyes at that hour. I would have crashed the car! Bless his heart. I could manage the 3 pm daily practices; I was at least awake at that point in the day, though quite frazzled. There were endless bottles of swim shampoo, many trips to the swim shop, and the smell of chlorine suits and towels hanging in the laundry room. I must have bought at least 3,567 pairs of goggles--some "cheap and crappy" some "OK ones" and some "sweet ones." There were fins, fast skins, meet suits, caps, pool buoys, warmups and parkas and other assorted swimwear/gear. There were heavy metals that would knock over her music stand, and a scrapbook for her ribbons.

"Hi, is Adrienne there?" friend callers would ask over the years. "Sorry, so and so, she's at swimming." I must have said that at least a thousand times.

Her sister would ask, "Where's Adrienne?" Her brother would answer, "Where else would she be, she's where she always is." At the pool.

So that was her life. My life. Our lives.

Now Adrienne is a sophomore in high school. I'm surprised she hasn't sprouted gills and fins for all the time she's spent in the pool. Turned into a mermaid like Daryl Hannah.

She flip turns and takes on the last lap with determination. She's not kicking hard enough, but she seems to command the water, like Moses parting the Red Sea. I don't know if she'll win or not. It's close. I see that she is ahead of her projected time, so as long as she drops time. I don't remember how the race turned out exactly. I was watching the other girl swimmers, her comrades in nylon/polyester, grab on to her and smother her in their teeagerly cheers and excitement when she got out of the pool.

As they jumped around and huddled on the side on the pool, I got to thinking that there's nothing better than being a part of a pack of wet, hysterical girls who have all shared your pain, misery and joys for years. Nothing better. I'm so glad she has that.

The week after the state meet was over, she told me she and bunch of her swim team friends are going to join the water polo team!!!!! UGHH!

It never ends.

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