Are we there yet?
Two years ago today we crossed the border into Canada with a car full of dirty clothes and high hopes. We were starving, so we went straight to the only place we could think of. After two weeks on the road, we ate our first Vancouver meal in the car across the street from the Pita Pit on UBC campus.
Gus began school a few days later, and I went to the Kits pool for the first time. At 137 meters, it intimidated me, as did the people who kept passing me as I crept along – just proud of myself for not drowning. Where is that wall.
Are we there yet?
On Friday, at the Kits pool again (still?) I swim my kilometer. Smooth and steady. I get passed, true. But just as often, I do the passing. Then I go to collect Gus, just finishing his final swim lesson of the summer.
Swim lessons did not go that well. Many reasons for that. First – we were always rushing. Rushing to get there from somewhere else. Rushing to leave there for the next thing: day camp or skating lessons, dinner with visiting brothers and grandparents.
Second – for Gus, a pool is a place to play, not work. And swimming – real swimming – is work. For along time, anyway. From the age of 5 to the age of 14 I was on a swim team. I hated every minute of it. Why did I do it? I had no choice.
But now that I do, I love swimming. Or I like swimming. I love having swum. The feeling of walking away from the pool with wet hair and clean lungs is THE BEST.
Jesse and Katrina, Gus’ teachers, are puzzled. The other kids do as they’re told. Flutter kick – they’ll kick it til it hurts. Bubbles through the nose – they’ll swallow gallons of salt water til they get it right. Why do they do it? Do they have no choice? For some reason, Gus has a choice. And he doesn’t see the point. He can get around in the water without sinking just fine, thank you very much Katrina and Jesse. Much more interesting things going on over there, on the other side of the rope.
Third – Gus missed over half the lessons. He was in California with his Dad. And on the last day, when all the other kids marched out of the water — as they were told. Gus saw me coming and jumped right back in.
This summer we practiced transitions, and Gus is getting good at them. He can change on the fly. Find his socks. Tie his shoes. Get his water bottle. Wash his hands. In about five minutes. I stopped putting his clothes out for him in the morning. He chooses for himself. Interestingly, he stopped putting his clothes on backwards. And even though I grow weary of the brown Scooby Doo T-shirt, I do not say. And I do not bury it at the bottom of the laundry basket.
And now, when we take our hike with the dog, Gus does not drag his heels. He keeps up, sometimes running and sometimes walking fast, and sometimes talking about what we will have for lunch. But not once. Not once do I have to stop and sigh, and turn around and cajole, threaten or scream at him to keep up. He’s with me all the way.
But not on the last day of swimming lessons. Every time I ask him to get out of the pool (nicely!) he ducks under. So I pick up the towel, flip flops, and goggles and walk after him. I pass the teacher. The other kids and Mothers crowd around him and he hands out their report cards. He gives Toblerone chocolate bars to the kids.
I feel their eyes on me. I imagine they are silently asking: why doesn’t that boy do what all the other kids are doing?
I go all hot in the face. I want to scream at Gus to get out of the pool.
And I realize they aren’t thinking that, but I am. And it is hard, but I do not scream. In a minute I can even smile – when I realize I just wanted that damn chocolate bar.
Are we there yet?
Two years ago, sitting in the car, munching on our pita sandwiches, I think we all kind of thought we knew the answer to the question. But we didn’t. And we don’t. On Wednesday, Gus begins his third year in the Arrowsmith Program.
And when his head pops out of the water, I ask him if he will please get out. He says he wants to swim the whole way to the other end, and I can’t really argue with that.
It is the longest pool in North America.