Summertime and the Living Ain’t Easy

Apologies to George Gershwin for messing up his song lyrics. But summertime living has never felt easy to me. Not hard, exactly. But not easy in the way, as a child, I always assumed it was for everyone else. You know, all those people who swam every day, and went to summer camp, and had perfect hair. I didn’t know who those people were, but I knew for sure they existed. People like Trixie Belden and her best friend Honey, for whom summer living was riding horses, swimming at the lake, and having adventures. Or the Beach Boys, surfing all day, and driving their daddy’s car to parties at night. You know, those people.

Nervously posing at the beach in 1987

The thought of summertime living always conjured up a knot in my stomach. Still does a little. And most of that anxiety surrounded the idea of swimming. Or not, as the case was for me. I couldn’t swim. And the older I got the more problematic that became.

When I was a kid my mum was a single parent. Money was tight. We didn’t own a cottage, or a camp as we called it in New Brunswick. We didn’t go on family vacations to a rented cottage. And I never went to summer camp like my friends. So I never developed a sense of confidence around water. That kind of easy, relaxed summertime feeling with the lake or the ocean always beckoning.

I remember splashing around in mum’s old wash tub in the backyard when I was little. Getting permission to fill it from the hose, and then shrieking as my friend Marie and I splashed in the cold water. That’s me, below, holding the bucket. And I remember going swimming sometimes with my sisters to a place called Chase’s Island on the Nashwaak River. We rode our bikes there, and while my sisters swam, I waded. And I remember loving it.

Summer fun with the old wash tub.

Because, oddly enough, I loved the water. But present me with a social situation that involved swimming and I would be so fearful, and anxious that I would do pretty much anything to avoid it.

I was an anxious kid anyway. Shy around strangers. Fearful. Tied to my mum’s apron strings, as it would have been described back then. The baby. And a sissy, to boot.

One year my mum signed me up for the free swimming lessons at the newly-built public swimming pool in Marysville near the school I attended. The pool was a little over a mile from home. I knew when to go and how to get there. I rode my bike. My mum was working, and my sisters and brother had jobs that summer. But, at eleven, I was old enough to go by myself.

So the first morning I set off. The beginner lessons started at ten o’clock. Oooh. It was torture, my friends. I was the oldest kid there. When, in a whisper, I confessed to the instructor that, yes, I was supposed to be in the beginner class despite being almost a head taller than some of the other kids, I almost started to cry.

I lasted for three lessons. I learned to put my face in the water, to float, and to float and kick my legs. Then I was done. I could not, would not, go anymore. I think I lied and told my mum that I went to all the lessons. And since she was at work all day she never found out. But I could not force myself to continue. It was too humiliating.

You know for years after that I berated myself for chickening out. For being such a sissy. A word commonly bandied around when I was growing up. But looking back now, I think if someone older had taken me, had sat on the other side of the wire fence that surrounded the pool, applauding and shouting encouragement, I would have had the confidence to continue. But that’s not the way it worked out. Such is life, right?

And my life has not been particularly scarred by not knowing how to swim. I can swim after a fashion. But for years and years I would not swim in water over my head. And I avoided all situations where I might be embarrassed by my failure to jump in the deep end of a pool, or off the end of a boat, or whatever.

Until 2008 when Hubby and I were organizing our second trip to New Zealand and Australia, and he suggested I take adult swimming lessons before we went. So I did. I signed up for individual lessons.

The first night I had a knot in my stomach as I drove to the Sportsplex. “Really? Still? You’re fifty-two for god’s sake,” I berated myself. When I arrived at the pool, I didn’t know the drill. I didn’t know where to go. People were rushing in and out of the dressing room, so I changed and followed a bunch of bathing-suit clad teenagers, who were way more confident than me, out into the cloying, chlorine-scented fug that hung over the water.

Somehow with the help of a young instructor I identified my teacher. He was sixteen at most. Still in high school. And I was relieved that he didn’t attend the school where I taught. That would have been too much. I’d have turned tail and run if that had been the case.

It was humiliating enough as it was. Splashing about, flailing, even hitting him once with a wild swing of my arm. I did learn a few things. But he didn’t know how to help me when I was unable to do something he told me to do. I kind of chuckled to myself, thinking, “There’s more to teaching than telling someone what to do.” But he was just a kid and I felt sorry for him.

Anyway, Hubby and I eventually headed off to Australia. And I swam in water over my head for the first time. At one accommodation, we had the pool to ourselves, and I entered the pool at the deep end, and swam all the way to the other end. Hubby applauded. “Where were you when I was eleven?” I shouted.

Summer living has never been easy for me. And that’s not going to change now. The memory of those long-ago swimming lessons is still vivid. But the swimming thing was just one of the situations that provoked anxiety for me as a kid. I learned a lot about childhood anxiety when I studied to be a teacher. And as a result I stopped blaming myself for being such a “sissy.”

I love the water. Especially the ocean. But even now I get a knot in my stomach at the spectre of summer swimming situations. I’m okay when it’s just Hubby and me. Or when I swam in the pool at my sister’s house a few years ago. But otherwise forget it.

And I have given myself permission to avoid social situations that involve swimming. No guilt. No more berating. If I won’t have fun, what’s the point?

I don’t avoid the social aspect, though. Just the swimming. If I attend a pool party, I don’t take my swimsuit. I just don’t. And I am content to sit under an umbrella and chat, sip a drink, and let everyone else splash about in the pool.

I might even applaud and shout encouragement if necessary.

Interestingly, when I was thinking about this post yesterday, I kept humming that old Gershwin song, sung so wonderfully by Ella Fitzgerald: “Summertime and the living is easy.” From Gershwin’s opera “Porgy and Bess.” I looked up the lyrics today. I didn’t realize that the song is a lullaby, a black mother singing to her child, in Charleston, South Carolina, in the early 20th century. As one critic says: “The song is highly ironic: the singer and the baby are poor and black during the Jim Crow era.” Of course their “living” isn’t easy. He says he sees the song as more of a lament. It’s a “lazy summer evening” and “the singer is dreaming of a better life” (source.)

Now that puts a whole new spin on the song for me.

As a kid I thought that summertime living was easy for everyone else. We’re so self-involved as kids, aren’t we? We don’t see how summertime living isn’t easy for many, many people. Living isn’t easy, for that matter.

Makes me think I should just get over myself.

What about you, my friends? Is summertime living easy for you? Are you a beach person who loves living in your swimsuit? Maybe you grew up spending long summer days at the cottage? Or perhaps summertime conjures a bit of angst for you too?

P.S. I’ve written about summertime angst before on the blog. The torture of shopping for a bathing suit in this post. And all about the benefits of summertime boredom here.

Subscribe:

Would you like to have new posts automatically delivered to you? Sign up below, and when new content appears on the website, we’ll send the story to you via email. 

* indicates required

Subscribe:

Would you like to have new posts automatically delivered to you? Sign up below, and when new content appears on the website, we’ll send the story to you via email. 

* indicates required

From the archives

life

Surviving Winter: Ski, Eat, Read, Repeat.

I look to my Hubby for lessons in surviving winter. Ski, eat, read, repeat is his mantra. He is an inspiration. And I try hard to keep up.
fashion

White Jeans and Whatever

It's finally white jeans weather, and I'm wearing my white jeans with whatever.
fashion

23 Days in Italy: Packed and Ready to Go

I'm planning and packing my travel wardrobe for Italy. Clothes for twenty-one days in one small suitcase.

104 thoughts on “Summertime and the Living Ain’t Easy”

  1. This made me so anxious…I was pulling at my mouth as I read it…and I can swim! That terrible feeling of not doing what others can. So pleased you found a way to deal with it. It is like me and driving. Can. Won’t. And done with explaining. Phew….

  2. When my kids were in swimming lessons instead of sitting around with other adults I really wasn’t fond of, I took lesson also. The kids in my “class”were early teens and cheered me on. Still afraid to dive and at 72 hardly ever swim but I can

  3. Sandra Thompson

    I had a similar upbringing where I had no opportunity to feel comfortable in water. My Mother was very nervous and I think this definitely rubbed off on me. As an adult I tried to learn to swim but was not successful as anxiety got the better of me. There have been times I have wished I could swim but all in all it hasn’t impacked my life any. Thank you for sharing this and being so open.

  4. Like you, I didn’t learn to swim as a child. My father’s idea of teaching me to swim was to throw me into the water at the beach and let me fend for myself. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t work. I was very short sighted, at a time before contact lenses, which didn’t help. I was ashamed and embarrassed and avoided anything water-related for years.

    In my late 20s I found the courage to book one-on-one swimming lessons and my teacher was a kind and patient woman in her 30s. I went twice a week for several weeks and I learned to swim freestyle, breaststroke and backstroke. I didn’t learn to love jumping in from the side of a pool, though I was okay in deep water, and I’ve never learned to body surf. I swam recreationally in Olympic sized pools in my late 20s and 30s but discontinued after that.
    These days a sore shoulder makes swimming for more than 20 minutes at a time tricky and I haven’t attempted backstroke for a few years. Nevertheless, I’m glad I learned to swim. As an Australian, it’s pretty much essential.

    1. I remember hearing of the “throwing in” technique. Kindness and patience are underrated in a teacher of any sort. Glad you found one, Maria.

  5. I’m glad I’m not the only one . I’m not a sporty adult & was never a sporty child . I followed the crowd as a youngster – cycling , roller skating & swimming etc but always struggled . So much so I almost drowned at about 9 or 10 years old . I’d had the swimming lessons at school & even got my ‘ length certificate ‘ but the instructor drew me aside & gently advised me to never go out of my depth . Well , we kids were all in the river near home swimming back & forth when I got into difficulties & had sunk twice already . Fortunately my slightly older cousin got to me with an old inflatable inner car tyre & he pulled me out . That was it . Water & I didn’t mix . In the years since , I’ve sat by beautiful water on tropical beaches , limpid lakes , rippling rivers & luxury swimming pools but they never tempted me . Max is a strong swimmer & didn’t understand why I couldn’t even manage to float “ Bodies float naturally “ he said . So he snorkeled off & left me reading , sketching or taking photos . I was much happier once I realised I didn’t have to do what everyone else did . We’re all different . People think I’m strange now when I won’t even go in a hot tub . Then there’s those nasty power showers … I’m fine with the gentle rain shower ones
    PS I don’t suppose all those strong swimmers can write as well as you do

    1. Snorkelling is the worst for me. I so, so wanted to try it. But my bad sinuses… or whatever… meant that after a few minutes I could not breath at all through the snorkel which made the experience doubly stressful. And entering the water from a boat when I didn’t know how deep it was scared the life out of me. But on the Whitsunday Islands in Australia I did snorkel… briefly… because we waded into the water from shore. So Stu and I went together and I swam with one hand while holding onto the fabric of his “stinger suit” (a light, fabric wet suit to protect against jelly fish) with the other. Imagine, as he edged a bit ahead of me, the cloth of his suit in my hand, a large triangle growing out from his side where I was clinging to the fabric. We made it around a rocky point and headed back for shore, and I’ll bet they never managed to shrink his suit back into shape. Once shore was within easy reach, I let go and swam like hell, churning up water as I went. We still laugh about that. And Stu always says I was just like a horse who smells the barn. Is that an expression over in England? When a horse “smells the barn” he picks up speed to head for home???

  6. Oh Sue, as an Australian who was fortunate enough to grow up with a pool, I now realise how lucky I was. So I guess I could say that summertime living was easy.
    I was never competitive with swimming, but I felt at ease. So much so that I was completely surprised when our Mediterranean swimming years later was considered to be adventurous (it really wasn’t).
    On the other hand, I took primary school students on ski trips and felt completely out of my depth. Even though I sort of managed it, I was never in control!
    I also feel the same way when I see how competently people sail around insouciantly on bikes in Amsterdam!
    I think that things you grew up doing, shape the way you view them. It’s the challenging yourself to try those new things that can really test you!

    1. I agree that what we grew up knowing and doing affects who we become. And as an adult I was driven to try new things, mostly because I was so timid as a child.

  7. Sounds so similar to my growing up. No opportunities to learn to swim and I nearly drown at lessons my mom got for us through girl scouts.
    I was able to learn as an adult just to stay afloat. We even have an inground pool now. But I will never trust myself to swim. I don’t enjoy it much unless I can touch bottom or float on a raft.
    I love the ocean but soaking my feet is as far as I will go there. I’m fearful watching my husband out in the deep water of the ocean where one never knows what is beneath. I will never snorkel and that is a shame.
    So glad you shared that story Sue.

  8. Hi Sue, I’m Australian too and grew up swimming: pools, rivers, oceans. I still swim at any chance but its what I did growing up. I’m envious of your ability to ski and wonder if its too late to learn now. I’m in awe that you had swimming lessons at 50. Such courage!

  9. Swimming lessons were part of my schooling. We were bussed to the big indoor pool in a nearby town, and everyone had lessons for a week or two (?) at whatever level was appropriate for each one of us. I remember part of my lessons was jumping from the high diving platform. There’s no way I would do that now. However, my sister who is five years older than me, is still quite afraid to go in the water. She also had swimming lessons and was filled with angst over them. I recall she practiced putting her face into water in a plastic basin the night before the lessons began.
    On a related note, I wish I had had the opportunity to learn to downhill ski. I am afraid of going quickly downhill (I get butterflies even in a car) but I think at 56, now is not the time to test out my skills. -Jenn

  10. Oh Sue … I feel just the same … my mum was a great swimmer and all my brothers really sporty. They all captained the school teams in football, rugby, cricket etc … I was lucky if I even made the team and then I was terrified that I’d let everyone down! Family and teammates!! 🥹
    My mum tried teaching me to swim in the sea and I almost drowned us both. Then a “friend” guided me to the deep end of the local pool and let go of me . My memories of being at the bottom of the pool, seeing only the tiles at the side, haunt me and consequently I never go out of my depth now.
    I knew there was a pool at Jess’ wedding venue in France and I didn’t even pack swimwear … so many regrets! 😞
    Luckily I managed to hide my fears from all my children, who all became great swimmers … although honestly, I think only one of them actually enjoys it.
    Skiing! I finally tried aged around 55 but I was just too frightened as I gained speed and to be honest I wasn’t relaxed enough to enjoy it. So it was back to sledging and hiking!
    So reassuring to read here how many of us feel the same!
    Oh and hair in the Summer … aaagghhh let’s not go there!
    Rosie xx

    1. Hair in the summer… let’s NOT go there. Good idea. I love cross-country skiing, but never became comfortable downhill skiing. Mostly because of the crowds, and the snowboarders wizzing around me. It always made me nervous. I stick to cross-country now.

  11. As I get older I see less and less the point of doing things that just stress us out.
    Growing up in England, my all-girls school started swimming lessons in April, in an unheated outdoor pool. irrespective of the weather. I remember turning blue ! But I did learn to swim.
    Now, living by the sea in Greece for many years, I enjoy taking a dip, but I have never lost my fear of going out of my depth. What I need is a good patient teacher, but I’m resigned to the fact that it will never happen.
    I don’t know about the living being easy , here it used to be, but with ever more and more tourists it’s not so much any more, the beaches have sun-beds end to end, the roads are choked with enormous cars, and parking is a nightmare. It was so lovely in the 70’s before the advent of charter flights.
    However I do realise that I am lucky to live in a beautiful place that many people can just enjoy for two weeks of the year.
    Thank you for sharing your story. Maybe someone will own up about living in absolute terror of gym class. I was the sissy then !

    1. I own up to that too Maisie . I hid in the cloakroom with my book for gym & games lessons . Guess I was a sissy too – or maybe just stubborn !

    2. I feel for you, Maisie. I’ve seen videos on social media of the crowds this summer in Greece and Italy. When we were on the Amalfi Coast in 2018 a local couple told us of the young, newly married couples who cannot afford to live in their own village. Many, many people have turned their homes into tourist accommodation. And Venice when the cruise ships are in port… oh my. What a nightmare. And having said that I feel like a hypocrite planning our Portugal trip. 🙁

  12. Living on a farm in my teens, my memories of summer living involve berry picking, helping bring in square hay and straw bales, preparing fair entries, and helping with the garden. It wasn’t all work all the time but friends lived far enough away that isolation was an issue. My mother made jam and pickles and preserved garden produce for the freezer, and even now, I think of summer as an industrious time to prepare for the winter…like the old story of the ant and the grasshopper!

    1. My memories of my teenage years are the same. We worked our summer jobs during the week and were expected to help at home on the weekends. When friends talk of living their summers at their cottage, I cannot relate. Still…all those bottles of pickles and jams were so good in the winter!

  13. Like you, I love the water but am not a strong swimmer. As a child I somehow taught myself to stay afloat but did not take a formal lesson until college, and now I don’t swim often enough to retain the muscle memory. Your photos of the wash tub remind me of the backyard wading pool- simple pleasures. I love several aspects of summer: long days of light, air-drying clothes on the clothesline, fresh produce and summer fruits, reading in the sun on my back deck. However, even though we have long winters here I am basically over summer by the second week of August and start to anticipate jeans, crisp air, and walking without getting sweaty and sticky.

    1. That is part of my problem too, Amelia. I don’t practice enough. During our trip to Australia in 2008 I had lots of time to practice what I’d learned. Now when we go camping, I’m back to square one again.
      P.S. The second week of August always heralds the anticipation of fall for me too.

  14. This is a wonderful, vulnerable post, and the comments are so interesting. I think you were very brave to go back to lessons in your fifties. There was a great piece in the NYT about a woman learning to swim over fifty, a while back. It was in a series about new things people tried and learned to love at older ages.

    I grew up in Toronto, so there were many opportunities to learn to swim in public pools. I hated swimming lessons, but my mom forced me to go through all the levels. I hated the lessons, as I was a tiny kid and always felt so cold in the pool and surrounds. I did, however, learn to swim, and then was certified for life saving in order to attend summer camp. In spite of hating the lessons, I’ve always been grateful to my mom for forcing me to get through them. When I lived in Australia I swam in an open swim race across Byron Bay. It was terrifying and I was slow, but I am glad I did it.

    My terror was around gym class more generally, which is super funny as I grew up to be a competitive athlete in my twenties. I was always small and I skipped a couple of grades, so the other kids were really rough with me in team and field sports. I begged to not have to attend gym class in high school, and was so relieved when it was no longer mandatory to take PE classes.

    Like someone else above, too, I hate driving. I can do it, well, and once I’m doing it I’m fine…but I have an innate terror of driving – especially merging on highways!

    1. I just looked it up and the NYT piece is called, “It’s never too late to learn how to swim,” in the “It’s never too late” series, in case your readers are interested. (Their search engine leaves something to be desired!)

    2. Ah thanks, Stephanie. I was not a tiny kid…always taller than most girls in my class. And sooo not wanting to stick out! The pushing and shoving around water always terrified me, though. Good for you to go on to become such a successful athlete as an adult.

  15. I am not much of a swimmer either, though I did take some swimming lessons both as a child and in my 30’s. My excuse was not being able to see without contacts or glasses. As I got older, I never liked how I looked in a bathing suit. When my son was young, I dreaded taking him to the community pool and was glad when he was able to swim well and be with friends. In spite of me, my son became a swimmer, participating on teams in middle and high school. He taught swimming to youngsters also, though never to adults.
    That said, I do feel a calm when I am near the water and have dreams of my next home being near a river, lake, or ocean.
    I used to like summer, and hot weather, much more than I currently do.

    1. We’ve always lived near water. On a river of very near one. But I dream of having a house on the ocean. That would be heaven in my books.

  16. Sue, I was fortunate to have grown up in a small, at that time, rural development that had it’s on private lake. We had a lifeguard that gave swim lessons every summer so I learned to swim at an early age. Neighborhood kids all swam just about every day. There was a large platform in middle of the lake with diving board it was awesome. Now at 68 my two sister in laws and I drive to the ocean which is only about an hour away. We try to go once or twice a week. We love it and of course on our way home we stop for ice cream. I live in New Jersey, USA and unfortunately now my lovely childhood neighborhood is no longer rural.

  17. Water can certainly bring on anxiety when you can’t swim with confidence.
    The way my siblings and I learned to swim, I’m really surprised one of us didn’t drown. No lessons. Just imitated others. I kept one toe on the ground and crawled furiously, yelling to everyone that I was really swimming. Eventually the toe came up.
    When I was 12, we lived near a very deep fresh water bay and I often “supervised” two younger brothers. The 6 year old was fearless and often dog paddled out over his head, went under, bobbed up and calmly say to me that he was drowning and needed to hold my shoulder for a minute. Your stories brought back those memories.
    Coincidentally, I was just strumming and singing that Summertime song last night.

  18. Oh, I never took to swimming either. I did take lessons, some took. I did dive off the diving board once at the big pool at the recreation summer area owned by the company my Dad was employed at. It just was not my thing. And I was never sporty as someone above said. I was knock-kneed and when I ran to play kickball I always fell down! so embarrassing. Although I must say, at my advanced age of 74, I am more afraid of showing up at the pool where I live in a bathing suit more than swimming! lol

  19. Such a good post, Sue — and you’ve opened up a space for so many others with similar experiences and feelings! Makes me even more grateful that my mother sent my siblings and I off to the Kiwanis Pool for lessons every summer — gym classes convinced me I wasn’t athletic, but I knew I could swim and walk and run, etc..
    Also makes me grateful for my younger siblings’ company at those lessons — I couldn’t have lasted any better than you did as an 11-year-old, solo-ing a beginner class (although size-wise I would have fit right in!).
    When we lived in a northern BC city by the ocean and many fished for a living, a number of drownings eventually resulted in swimming lessons at the local indoor pool being made part of the school curriculum in the early elementary years. That may now have gone the way of so many so-called extras cut by school boards over the past decades, but I thought it was a brilliant idea! (I have no doubt that there would have been a few kids who hated the experience, but at least most could now tread water when they slipped off a dock helping mom or dad unload the boat).

    1. I think that so much of that early swimming lesson experience is about the fear and loneliness of having no one to share my fear with. That sounds whiny, I know. But I always knew what the response would be if I related how I felt about the lessons at home. From mum or from my older siblings. So I shut up and lied about not going. But I agree that swimming lessons when young are sooo good. It’s amazing that fishermen out east traditionally could not swim. I guess the ocean was for working on, not swimming in, so they were never taught.

  20. Valeri Johnson

    I went to school in Southern California in the 60’s and we couldn’t graduate high school without a swimming certificate. To be certified you didn’t need to formally swim, just tread water for a period of time and make it from one end to the other of a long Olympic sized pool. Most of us dog paddled to keep our big bouffant’s dry. Now I live in Houston where outdoors in summer is unbearable without a pool and most, if not all neighborhoods have a community pool. My children began swim lessons at age 3 because we’ve always had a boat.

  21. Trixie Belden and Honey! I loved them! Haven’t thought of them in years.

    Growing up on L. Superior, the water was too cold to swim most of the year, not to mention the random drownings that seemed to happen regularly. I grew up with a great fear of water and no pool or swim lessons in sight. Neither of my parents could swim as far as I know, and while I did have lessons at summer camp one year, I failed the final test miserably. As an adult, I made sure all my kids could swim — a task accomplished by the school system where they grew up (not on L. Superior). At some point, I became determined to learn and took Red Cross swim lessons at the local community college. I was able to swim the length of the pool, but when the final test arrived, I panicked but came back to try again and again. The test involved diving in the deep end, floating face down for three (?) minutes and then swimming the length of the pool. I always panicked on the floating part with the instructor fishing me out each time. Finally, I gave up and didn’t go back. So no. Swimming isn’t something I love, although I do love being near water, mostly to sit by the lake and listen to the waves.

  22. You are so right-encouragement makes the difference. Your story is the story of so many of us. OK, sure-access to a pool is pretty critical too. When you grow up with neither, you become a non-swimmer. But on the upside, no family members, friends or neighbors were swimmers either. That fact never made a dent in the enjoyment of life for any of them.
    I call myself a non swimmer but I can actually swim the length of a YMCA pool. Most people, so I’m told, overestimate their swimming ability. I guess I downplay instead.
    Summer was never my favorite season. I look forward to my favorite day of the year when the weatherman says we’ll have a touch of fall in the air!

  23. I also grew up in the 60’s in Southern CA-where swimming was a requirement. We had a pool and a beach-and it was a matter of safety. I am grateful for that now-but oh how I hated first period PE swim class. How can a girl redo her hair after swimming at 7 AM? Ha
    I love ocean swimming, and even got scuba certified, had to as my husband had a sailboat, but still hold a deep respect/fear of the strong ocean. My kids were in the Jr lifeguard program every summer, and I understand the danger. It is a beast that must be handled with respect. Bravo for your accomplishment, you should be so proud. And thank you for sharing.

    1. The hair, the hair. Making high school girls get their hair wet first thing and then not giving them time to redo it… I empathize, Sandy.

  24. Dear Sue, You are mystic, you always know just what to write about. I too never learned to swim. My Mom did scrap the money for summer day camp one year, swim lessons were included. One huge problem…no eye glasses allowed in the pool. I couldn’t see far enough to follow along in the group class. I spent the rest of camp reading under a tree on the hill above the pool, it was fabulous. The rest of camp was wonderful, trips, crafts, fishing and friends. It was run by school teachers from our rather large district…teachers you would see or have as you aged up. Now I am getting the family together for our annual trip to the hot springs in the mountains. A wonderful huge pool, a kiddie pool and a fabulous hot pool to soak my arthritis. Except for the very end of the pool, they are all walking pools, no swimming required. Happy Summer all.

    1. I also cannot swim. My older sister is an excellent swimmer, was life guard certified and enjoys it as exercise. I was a very shy, anxious but stubborn little girl and told my mom I would not take lessons unless they didn’t make me jump from the diving board into the deep end. So no lessons. I remember I purposely skipped a grade school boy girl pool party for fear of being thrown in the pool. I have thought about adult lessons and admire you for trying but I think it would have to be a special teacher. I also think most people over estimate their swimming skills.

    2. Same here, Heather. Money was tight in our house, and one year Mum was willing to pay to send me to camp along with a neighbourhood girl my age. But this girl was so confident having gone the year before and told me so many horror stories that I begged to be allowed NOT to go. I so wish I’d gone now.

  25. So very interesting to read everyone’s experiences…we all have to eventually settle on what we enjoy and are good at doing. I was raised by my grandparents in southern Ontario. They sent me to live with their daughter and her husband (my birth mother, although I never knew this until much later in life – the truth will out!). They would put me in swimming lessons…large group….I always ‘faked it’ (one toe on the bottom) and stroking along as directed. Never really like it. As parents (three kids), we made sure that they all were well taught and competent…one became a life guard. But as life went on, I did quite well with snorkelling (flippers make one more buoyant) and really enjoy it. A very interesting post, Sue, as always!

    1. It’s amazing how many children thought mothers were sisters and grandparents were parents. Second families, blended families, uncles and aunts our own age. I thought I was unique growing up with half sisters and a half brother. Turns out I wasn’t.
      P.S. I have a hard time with flippers. My swim teacher thought they would help me, but all they did was push my face into the water because my feet were so buoyant. Poor kid… I was a problem student.

  26. I find it very touching that your hubby cheered you on. He truly is a best friend and partner.

  27. I grew up in Florida and have spent my whole life in places that are hot. Until 2020 I never wanted to own a pool, but climate change is real, y’all. Now there is a company that arranges for people with pools to rent theirs out and a couple of times a summer, my hubby and I will do that.

    Like most “social” swimming, that is just standing around in water up to my shoulders, drink in hand. And I love jumping in a pool or off a boat into cold water when it’s 100 degrees. When I have the opportunity to stand in the ocean up to my chest and jump/rise with the incoming waves, I sleep so well that night, with remembered sensation of being lifted and lowered. So yeah, I love the water and I’m not afraid. I think I had enough opportunities to practice my dog paddle that I’m not worried that I will drown.

    But I still don’t think of myself as a swimmer and do wish I could “swim” swim – laps and all. I was sent to swimming lessons as a child several years but failed to pass “minnow” class. I am touched by your statement that you just needed some encouragement. I just needed someone to recognize that I was scared to put my face in the water. I think it was connected to the fact that I badly needed glasses, which it somehow took until 4th grade for a teacher to notice. Not seeing well plus face in the water was just too much.

    Swimming laps seems like such an ideal form of exercise as I age and I think I’d really enjoy it. As I’ve written this, I’ve added adult swimming lessons to my to-do list. I retire in 18 months and I can get that done between now and then. I have access to pools in my neighborhood where I can swim during the periods when they are set up for laps and there are large lakes in the town where I will spend the summer.

    All in all – thank you for this chance to reflect on my love of water and how I can have more in my life. I look forward to your posts every Saturday. Referencing your recent post – Your labor of love is a service I value and would pay for.

    1. You are so right about social swimming… so much standing. It hardly seems worth it to change into one’s bathing suit. Good luck with the lessons. Let us know how you get on. 🙂

  28. I’m sorry that you’ve had such an experience! But,you can do what you’re comfortable with,it ain’t nobody’s business but your own (when we are talking songs :))
    I utterly love water and swimming,but can completely understand you-my mother had an awful situation when she was a young married woman-it was a prank,but an idiot relative almost drowned her in a pool- luckily, my father was near. She was never comfortable with any pool,sea,river….. and is not swimming any more.
    I’m afraid of steps without handrail-I’m now paralysed with fear (after my fall )when I see them (and it is more often here than it should be,even in public places,theatres etc)
    Dottoressa

    1. I’ve always been afraid of the idiots around water. So many people use “jokes’ to hide bullying. I hear you about the handrails. It’s amazing how many public places have accessibility issues. Nowadays that’s inexcusable.

  29. This is yet another reason why I love your blog. Also the comments are a true community with so much information.
    I took lessons when I was young, and the glassses thing is real. When you cannot see the people at the other end or see what is on the bottom that you are supposed to retrieve it is rather terrifying. When a ‘friend’ thought it would be funny to sneek up behind me and push me under, well, that was the end of my lessons. I love the water, sitting by it and watching and listening to it, but I will never go beyond my chest depth now. I have to have my feet firmly planted or be able to touch down to feel safe. Even with a ring or other floating accessory I cannot make my legs work properly to propel me along since my knee and hip replacement and actually started to panic a few years ago when the waves pulled me out a bit more and I could not touch. Such fears are not cause for the end of beach vacations, but I will be enjoying the shallow waters and reading on the sand.
    Funny, (not funny) I actually had cognitive behavioural therapy a few years ago when my fear of water got so bad that at times I could not stay in the shower without my husband in the room. Now that is TMI.
    Love your wonderful stories of you life Sue.

    1. I like how the Brits use the word “paddling” which I think we’d call wading. Paddling is what I mostly do. But I love the ocean, so paddling it will be.

  30. Thank you for another very interesting post!
    Anxious, shy, fearful, etc. My feelings exactly, and I never learned to swim as a child. Forward to college, where believe it or not I had to pass a swimming test to graduate. After a semester of swimming instruction I somehow passed… and swore I would never swim again. Being very fair, I’ve always hated the sun and nearly all outdoor summer activities. Picnicking under a shade tree may be the only exception.
    Driving was a similar experience. My very kind and understanding husband told me I could learn to drive. He took me to a deserted parking lot on at least four afternoons and helped me learn to drive, including how to parallel park. Somehow he managed to turn a nervous wreck into a competent driver. I’ve driven in NY City, LA, and even downtown Boston without having an accident or a nervous breakdown.
    I still hate driving and swimming. Somehow those feelings that terrify us as children stay with us as adults. We may at least partially overcome the fear with enough effort, but it remains there in the back of the mind to haunt us for the rest of our lives.

    1. My husband and his friends always laugh about their friend who they shepherded through his swimming test before he could graduate from the Phys. Ed. degree program. A long-handled lifeguard’s hook is always mentioned. Good for you for being such a brave driver, Cathy.

  31. It’s hard to type this with my fins….
    Like reading, I cannot recollect a time when I could not swim, at the time it wasn’t about having the wear with all to learn …it was about survival. I spent my summers on the Georgian Bay in Ontario. The place was not an island and was only accessible by boat through very deep open water. Our mom did try us in formal lessons until my brother opined ‘ the guy is a jerk he tried to drown me, I am NOT going to drown in a swimming pool’ The words ‘swimming pool’ spat out with disdain!! My Dad figured that if we were going to be at the cottage all summer best learn to swim ..without life jackets because with the only supervision being two old ladies ( great aunt & grandmother) the chances were pretty slim that we’d bother donning safety gear. Also our favourite playthings were a motley assortment of canoes, dinghies, punts and a circa 1930’s Evinrude 3hsp engine that ( I kid you not) required gas to go right in it, no separate tank. At seven and eight with that sketchy engine sparking and fuming we would take off to the back bays often portaging ( dragging;) a boat through a marsh to another back woods lake. We were so happy when someone found an unclaimed aluminum boat floating in our bay after a big storm. So much lighter. At that point we’d graduated to shooting our great aunt’s .22 rifle at cans in the back bush, reading inappropriate literature left behind by guests and stealing the odd cig from grandma’s stash. Still swimming though, and the adventures continued.

    Inspired by our part porpoise/seal parents we swam across our bay hoping for a big boat to go by to body surf in its waves. Sometimes naked. I mean two little kids swimming naked in thirty foot deep water?????? No fear.at.all
    That my grand children are growing blowholes on the tops of their heads is a huge thrill for me ( and one great grandpa) but life jackets are always worn in the local wading pool and beaches. They are eager to check out our seal in (according to them) PEI’s shark infested waters next summer. I can’t wait to introduce them to North Atlantic ocean swimming. So much more exciting,colder and challenging than fresh water!

    My husband will go in a boat but is a non swimmer ( a fear put into his head after an uncle drowned) Parents really need to keep stuff like that to themselves and just make sure their kids can swim or drive or do whatever really well. . ( hmm, maybe not shooting rifles or smoking, we were self taught and I certainly don’t encourage it)

    Projecting ones fears on children is just wrong and can rob them of a life time of pleasure and enjoyment.

  32. Yes, I feel your anxiety but mine is snow skiing! I can water ski, swim, most any water sport but my place in the snow is at the lodge with a hot drink, fire and a book! 😊. Tried it twice and decided I am really not that fond of falling down 🤣

  33. I’m not a strong swimmer but I do like to get into the water when on vacation. It’s all part of the experience, whether that be ocean or a pool. I have snorkeled but can’t get up the courage to scuba. Strangely, I live by the Pacific Ocean but never go in. Too cold for these old bones. I love to sit by it and listen to the waves, or walk along the sand, as I’m sure you enjoy sitting by the river, or gliding along in your canoe. There is something soothing about a body of water.
    I love summer when it finally comes but my favourite season is fall with the crisp mornings, pretty coloured leaves, donning of sweaters and my favourite jeans.

    1. Gliding in the canoe is wonderful. So peaceful. Also good is clambering out into a cold, shallow stream when the weather is too hot. Sitting on the rocks up to our neck is wonderful.

  34. Swimming….bathing suits….ugh the stuff of nightmares. I was a short, chubby, fair skinned, blonde who turned beet red every summer and abhorred the heat. The cherry on top of that cone was my mother who couldn’t swim, was petrified of the water and gladly shared her aghast with her children. Likewise all of us were fearful of the water. I much preferred reading, daydreaming and the cool shade of the front porch. Wonderful to finally realize how many of us had similar experiences. Finally at 67
    , we seem to have found our tribe.

  35. Thank you for a wonderful, thoughtful post. I remember being thoroughly bored some summers until I was about 12 years old. Like your mother, mine would not tolerate an “I’m bored whine” and could easily give me chores to do. So…I got busy as you did with Barbies, and a backyard wading pool and bike riding. I also learned a lot from the boredom as in, I don’t want to be bored, so I do think it serves a purpose. A time to daydream under a tree may be boring, but it is also creative. My mother could not swim. She took lessons and could do fine in water where her feet could touch, but just never wanted to be in deep water. We all learned to swim because our mother recognized it as a good thing. Interestingly, I do have one brother who could not pass the swim test at Scout camp because he sank doing the “dead man’s” float. His body, though fit and wiry, was too dense for floating on the water. I guess there are some people who are that dense…or so I was told.
    My fear as a kid was performing on the piano in front of others. I quit taking lessons because of it. I have returned to the piano in my retirement and have made some progress with the performing jitters.

  36. Oh my, conjuring the memories of Trixie Belden, bathing suits, and water activities. I loved only one of them, can you guess which? I grew up in Arizona, where we set up a 3-foot above-ground pool on our patio for a few summers. It attracted a lot of neighborhood kids and a lot of bugs, but it was too small for anything but splashing around and cooling off. Lessons were unheard of in my family, as they cost money. Still, I somehow learned over the years to do a (barely) passable crawl while holding my head completely out of the water. Enough to save myself. Probably.

    High school P.E. required that I take a swimming unit. P.E. was first period, so I went to second and third periods with wet hair and runny mascara, a real confidence builder at that age. Another hydrophobic and I referred to ourselves as The Water Babies. To pass the unit, we had to do whatever was necessary to keep from touching the bottom of the pool for ten minutes. I spent most of the ten minutes doing a lazy back stroke, but I may have cheated once or twice.

    My last 42 years have been in coastal Southern California, during which time I “swam” in the ocean exactly once. We had gone to the beach with friends, and my myopia was such that when I got out of the water I literally couldn’t find the spot where we had left our towels and coolers. I wandered up and down the sand, attempting something akin to a relaxed stroll, until a familiar soul joined me, not knowing she was saving me from a panic attack, lol.

    I’ll take Trixie under an umbrella, thank you. I love living at the coast, but I will continue to appreciate the ocean from the sand. Or the pool from a lounge chair. But–respect–y’all have fun out there!

  37. When I was 4, my family went to a pool party hosted by close friends of my parents. At some point one of the (probably tipsy) adults thought it would be funny to tow me in my little floaty ring to the deep end of the pool and leave me there. I was terrified, and it took far too long (it might have only been a minute – I honestly don’t know, but it felt like forever) for my dad to realize I was so scared and pull me out. I’ve been wildly uncomfortable in water deeper than my shoulders ever since, and didn’t learn to swim until I was in college. I’m still not much of a swimmer, and at this point am way out of practice.

    Thanks for sharing your story, and to everyone else who shared theirs as well. My lack of swimming ability has always made me feel like a bit of an oddball (especially growing up in Southern California!), and hearing similar stories from so many people makes me realize that perhaps I’m not so far out of the mainstream.

    1. It’s been wonderful to realize that not learning how to swim was quite common. Not everyone was a tanned beach baby. Wish I’d learned that when I was fifteen.

  38. Gosh this post has stirred up a lot of memories for people.

    I’m not a great or very confident swimmer thanks to “swimming lessons” from my father when I was about six. We were on board a small cargo passenger ship heading from Hong Kong back to Britain. The pool was a huge wooden crate lined with a massive tarpaulin and water was pumped in from the sea. It got emptied every so often – usually when living things started to grow in it. The water always looked deep, scary and dark to me. One day he picked me up and threw me into the middle telling I could either swim or drown! I swam!

    I’ve always lived close to water – the sea, rivers or pools and have quite enjoyed splashing about and cooling off but do envy my grandchildren’s confidence in the water and their effortless, graceful swimming styles. They all had proper swimming lessons from the time they were tiny.

    We owned a boat for a number of years and hubby was startled when I voluntarily climbed down the ladder into the water when we were in the middle of a very deep lake on an early trip out in the boat. Was I scared? You bet! But I knew it was something I had to do if only to prove that I could cope if there was an accident.

    Like many of your followers I would rather be next to the water, in the shade enjoying a cold drink and listening to the waves.

  39. Sue your post resonated with me so much! Unlike you I did have opportunities to learn to swim.I grew up in the UK and swimming was part of our gym class in high school. I learnt to float and do a rudimentary breast stroke, but was so fearful of the deep end. I couldn’t jump in feet first even. Our gym teacher an ex Marine thought it best to learn by doing so he pushed me in the deep end. Then had promptly dive in to get me as a sank like a stone. After that I would rarely go willing to a pool. Though when we were first married my husband and I would ‘swim’ laps at our local pool in Winnipeg.
    Not wanting my children to have my fears, they were started in swim lessons as toddlers, and it was mandatory for them to continue every summer until they reached their Gold Medallion. My job done, they could swim and save themselves, because I knew I could not! They are all in their 40s now and only our youngest loves swimming.
    I have taken lessons several times during the past 45 years, I can now swim a kind of freestyle, but not well, breast stroke and back crawl I am quite comfortable with. I still had never been able to jump or dive into a pool or lake.
    Now we have young grandkids who love the water and have no fear, so I had to up my game. So this spring at 67 I enrolled in adult swim lessons. There were 3 of us a 17 yr old trying to be life guard and a young mum, who could swim, just wanted to finesse her strokes. I missed the first lesson as I was recovering from Covid, so my first lesson we headed to the deep end. You know it…first we roll into the pool, then jump with life jackets. Then off they come and we jump then dive. My instructor, a young man in his 30s I’d guess, was so patient. I was literally frozen. I told them ‘I can’t do this’. ‘ Do you want me to push you, give you a start?’ NO! Well I did it, not well, not perfect but I did and I was pretty proud of myself. I actually enjoy swimming now and swim laps 3 days a week.
    Not well or fast, but I do, and when the grandkids want to dive into the pool I can join them, though I warn them to give me room, I invariably do a belly flop!
    I admire you for ski-ing, as I tried that as once, and only once. Terrified me and I have never gone again.

    1. I was never a natural down-hill skier. I learned in my thirties. Apart from two disastrous attempts as a teenager. But I took lessons, and then had Hubby as a coach. He’s very good at knowing which hill will be good for me, and which will scare the bejesus out of me. I trust him implicitly to make those judgements for me. Especially when I say…noo…can’t do that one..and he say…yes you can. So I do. We don’t downhill ski anymore. Some years I miss it. But then I remember the crowds, the fearless snow-boarders bombing down the hill and I’m content to be on the cross-country trails. 🙂

  40. Trying to learn to swim as a child was terrible – I am terribly nearsighted and it was frightening not to be able to see, and I was so skinny that I sank like a stone. I managed somehow to learn enough to get by as I got older. When I retired my son encouraged me to take lessons, and (long, although mildly entertaining, story short), I ended up learning through the “Total Immersion Swimming” program. The program focuses on swimming efficiency. Its teachers learn how to teach you one small step at a time, and they tend to teach a lot of older adults. For the first time, swimming made sense. Now I regularly swim laps (with lots of rest stops!) and enjoy it. So if you have any inclination to try again, I urge you to seek out the TI program.

    1. That program sound good, MJ. I think a lot of swim instructors (like the very young teacher I had) know how to swim, but not how to break it down into small morsels for students. Especially fearful ones.

  41. This has been very interesting reading on this early Monday morning here in hot, sunny Spain.
    When I was about 8years old, I lived in tge west of Ireland with my parents and 5 siblings. My Father thought us all to swim in tge sea at Enniscrone, on a beautiful golden sandy beach. When my Family moved up to County Dublin, I joined a swimming class which were held in the very old Ivy Baths in Dublin City centre. So, I quickly progressed into a good swimmer and prided myself on having a decent ‘crawl’ stroke! Now, living right by the beach here in Spain, I enjoy swimming in the sea nearly every day, if anything, to keep cool from the roaring hot sunshine! Even though I’m a lover of the sea, I treat the water with caution. I nearly drowned when I was in my late teens back in county Dublin so I am always fearful when I’m out of my dept! My most wonderful experience that I was fortunate to have had was when I was visiting my Son while he was working in Grand Cayman, i got to swim with the sting rays. I will never forget that! Finally, I enjoy reading Sues blogs every week and the comments following are very interesting and indeed, entertaining.

    1. Oh dear… I am not sure that swimming with any kind of big fish would be enjoyable for me. I don’t have a lot of physical courage. Good for you to do it.

  42. What an interesting post and I love the comments. I grew up in the UK and swimming was something you might do in the summer in the one open-air swimming pool that serviced quite a large town where I lived, but the weather and the fact that the pool was unheated led to you not going all that often! I don’t swim at all now as I can’t face the getting in and out of the pool with my arthritis. I mean I could do it if there was a gentle slope but steps? Nope! When I was younger though I could manage a breast stroke but never got to grips with the overarm crawl and just like you hated getting my face under water. In addition I hated getting out of my depth. All in all, swimming was never a high priority for me and is a no-no now.

    Really great post 🙂

    1. Thanks, Penny. I don’t mind being out of my depth in many things (like technology) because I always think I’ll be able to figure it out eventually. That does NOT apply to swimming though.

  43. I think that learning to swim should be part of the school curriculum! Many of the comments for Sue’s post discuss lack of money as being a reason why parents didn’t put their children in swim lessons, and I’m horrified by the number of people who said that a parent threw them into the water to ‘teach’ them to swim. It’s also disgusting to read that many parents projected their own fears of water onto their children. If you live in an area that has close access to lakes and rivers, and if you live in an area in which community and backyard pools are common, basic water safety and the ability to swim are essential skills. The best thing we can do for our kids is to make them confident and comfortable with being in water; as we all know, it takes extra courage and effort to be a “later in life learner” for swimming, among other physical activities!

    Proper lessons with an instructor at an early age, delivered through schools, is the way to go! My children were both able to take part in a “Swim to Survive” program through their schools; we were also fortunate enough to be able to afford swim lessons at community pools, and then recently, I hired a former student to do more specific lessons in our backyard pool (technique, diving, flip-turns, etc.). All kids should have the opportunity to learn basic water safety and to swim – not just those of us with the money to pay for lessons and to purchase our own pools.

    On a final note, I am a very comfortable swimmer (comfortable – not fast!) and I enjoy lake swimming and competing in triathlons in the summer, but that being said, I much prefer winter over summer. Hopefully we get snow in 4-5 months 🙂

    1. Good for you to invest in those private lessons for the kids, Jo. There are so many backyard pool accidents every year. I wonder if the board has ever considered swim lessons as part of the curriculum. Too many liability issues maybe.

  44. Hi Sue,
    What a fun post. You are such a gifted writer, thanks for sharing that talent with all of us.
    I did not have any swim lessons and really learned from my brothers as they were a bit older and quite good swimmers though I’m not sure where they learned from. My mother had a fear of swimming and shared some drowning stories that I’m sure affected me. I did get by enough to enjoy the pools as a young girl but never enjoyed going in lake water although I have a lake home!! I always say I love the serenity of the water but don’t need to be in it!!!
    Summertime now means keeping all inside chores to a minimum to be outside and enjoy nature.
    Pam/Chicago burbs

  45. Suz from Vancouver

    Thanks for another great post.
    I didn’t have swimming lessons as a child (limited family income) and I too often think I should try some now as an adult but I’m fearful so never investigate the options.
    Funnily even though I can’t swim well I enjoy snorkeling whenever we travel to a tropical location. How? I use a snorkel vest:

    https://otteraquatics.com/snorkeling/snorkel-vest/

    I’m a “float on top” snorkeller – I never dive down to inspect anything closely…..

    Your post and the comments were a wonderful read this morning. The easy space sharing of vulnerabilities you foster is a a beautiful gift.
    Again, thank you, Suz from Vancouver

    1. Ah, thanks, Suz. If we travel back to Australia again I may investigate that vest. But there’s still that darned snorkel though. At the time Hubby said to just take the mask and snorkel off and clear it, but I always tried to stand up to do it and then much thrashing about ensued. Maybe the vest would help with that.

  46. Sue, as the comments confirm, you are certainly not alone when it comes to being uncomfortable with swimming. For a variety of reasons, many people don’t learn to swim when they are young. I wish that it was something that schools taught, even though that has its own issues.
    I grew up next to the ocean and swam at a young enough age that I don’t fully remember learning how to swim. At some point, I took swimming lessons, which were free at a local beach. Lessons were early in the morning and the water was very cold (northern MA and no Gulf stream). I was afraid of learning how to dive. That involved diving off a high rock coming out of the ocean. I skipped the lesson that day. I’m a decent swimmer, but not a diver. I can dive off the edge of a pool, but don’t do it from the diving board. I wish that I’d attended that lesson!
    I love to swim and spend a lot of time in the water, splashing around. I have what I consider to be a healthy fear of the ocean, knowing that even good swimmers run into problems. I’m not crazy about strong waves and prefer a calm sea for swimming.
    As many other people have said, I do not like downhill skiing. I’ve taken lessons and tried it several times. I don’t like picking up speed and I’m so tense that I am sore after a session. For a long time, I felt the need to keep trying. I finally accepted that it isn’t my thing and I don’t have to do it. I have tried cross-country skiing a few times and liked it. One place I went had some stressful downhill moments, but mostly I’ve found it to be good exercise and not too stressful.

    1. Cross-country skiing can be pretty hairy depending on the trail. A narrow track down a hill with a sharp turn at the bottom to avoid going into the trees comes to mind. And with no edges to carve a turn like those on downhill trees… it’s exciting. But we avoid those trails now. Gentle slopes and no sharp turns are my requirements when we find a new trail. Ha.

  47. What a great post – and comments! I am a regular reader of your blog but rarely comment. My maternal grandparents and all their forebears were sea fishers – going out in trawlers, steam drifters and before that the traditional Scaffies, Fifies and Zulus – open boats with sails. They fished out into the Moray Firth in the north of Scotland and up to the very top of Scotland, down the west coast, and also followed the herring down to Yarmouth and Lowestoft. There were no lifeboats in those days, and no fisherman learned to swim, on the basis that if they fell overboard they would drown quickly and have it over and done with. Despite living beside the sea, my mother was very timid about the water, and I grew up with these non-swimming/drowning tales. As a result I was terrified of water. My parents got private 1-1 swimming lessons for me, and as I was so fearful my father, who also couldn’t swim, came in with me. I did learn, progressing from doggy-paddle to a haughty and inefficient breaststroke. Swimming was part of the PE curriculum in secondary school. Our teacher decided I wasn’t swimming fast enough, so to make her point she pushed me under the water with a long bamboo pole. The mind boggles. This is the same teacher who, on my consistently coming in way ahead of everyone else in cross-country running, only said, “it’s a pity you can’t do that in the rest of the sports”. We did of course have heated indoor swimming pools (oh that horrible chlorine fug and echoing shouts and screams and tiny changing cubicles), but also open air unheated sea pools fed direct from the North Sea. As a skinny child I was always on the brink of hypothermia when we went there with other children for “fun”. Now I would never countenance going into a swimming pool, or doing anything other than paddling in the sea.
    I did keep quiet about my forebears non-swimming, and made sure my children learned to swim confidently in a supportive environment at an early age, and the same for skiing. I never learned to ski as a child, tried for several years to do downhill skiing to accompany my husband who is a keen skier, gave that up and tried cross country and called a halt when I broke my coccyx falling off cross country skis while standing still. I can put one foot in front of the other to hillwalk and jog and I’m very happy with that!

  48. I can sort of relate. I am the youngest and when we were little and took lessons, I was afraid and my mom didn’t push me. I remember my dad taking lessons at the local high school at night so he could supervise us on vacation I guess. Somehow I managed in the water and was never really afraid. I could go in the deep end and go off the board. But, I never mastered blowing out of my nose underwater so the “American Crawl” as it was known to us escaped me. I still regret that at 68. I always ask my daughter how you do it. The answer is just try. I am still too afraid! And diving? Never! More of a belly slam at best.

    1. How lovely of your dad to take lessons too. Back when I was a kid, I don’t think it ever occurred to adults to take swimming lessons.

Comments are closed.