Learning to swim

Playing in the water is fun, but it’s even more fun when I know what I’m doing.

Fiona overlooks the pool at the YMCA in Jamaica, Queens.
Fiona overlooks the pool at the YMCA in Jamaica, Queens.

In the summer, I took swimming lessons in a pool. The pool was at the YMCA in Jamaica, Queens. Every Friday I put on my swimming cap and my swimming suit and mama took me on the subway to my lesson. Except for the time Mama and Daddy didn’t have time to put my swimming suit on me before we left our house and they changed my clothes on the subway. Mama put my swimming suit on me while Daddy held up a towel so other riders couldn’t see what was going on.

One day when we got to the YMCA I looked at a camera and then I got a card with my picture on it. After that, whenever we got to the YMCA, we went to the basement, where all the walls were painted blue, and I showed my card to the lady, who would let us in. We went into the locker room so I could take a shower before I got into the pool. The floor was really slippery when I was all wet! I fell down one time, but just one time.

Then I went out on to the deck, which had really big hooge steps that mama and daddy sat on while the class had its lesson. At first I was nervous and didn’t want to go with my class, but then I decided it was okay. At the beginning of class, we all went to one corner of the pool with our teacher. I had two teachers, in fact. At the beginning of class, they gave us something they called a backpack. I put it on my back then fastened the straps over my tummy. Then we walked along the pool with our hands on the wall because I didn’t want to slip.

When we got to the other end of the pool, we sat down along the edge of the pool and splashed our feet in the water. Then we got into the water. The water was so deep that I couldn’t touch the bottom, so I held on to the edge of the pool with my hands and stretched out my legs. I put my face in the water and blew bubbles. One time I started crying because I got some water in my nose. The teacher would hold on to me like this [with her hands under my arms] and say, “Kick! Kick! Kick! Kick! Kick!” and, “Circle! Circle! Circle!” I would kick my feet and move my arms in circles so I could learn to swim.

I also learned to float on my back. At first all I did was look up, up, up at the sky. Then I learned to kick while I was on my back. I also flapped my arms like I was a bird and that helped me go through the water.

When we were done learning how to swim each week, the class got out of the water and took jumps. That was pretty fun. But the best thing I got to do was use a noodle. It was green, but other noodles were pink and blue and purple. My teacher put it under my arms and I practiced swimming. My teacher didn’t even have to hold on to me when I was swimming with the noodle.

Then we climbed up the ladder and got out of the pool and walked back down along the pool with our hands on the wall. I was usually cold and shivering. We took off our backpacks and put them away and said goodbye to our teacher. Sometimes mama and I would stay and watch the big kids in their lesson. The teachers would put in the lane lines. The lane lines were really, really, really long—as long as the whole pool! They made a pattern: blue, yellow, blue, yellow, blue, yellow, blue. When the big kids got in the pool, they would hold on to kickboards and swim all the way down the pool.

Someday I’ll be able to do that, too. But I’m still small, so I have to learn how to use those kickboards and swim all by myself.

This article appeared on pages 8–9 of Issue 11 | July 2013.

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