Yesterday we joined the YMCA and it is just about the best thing that ever happened to me. First of all the Y is located about one football field away from where we live (look at me, using football references) and to get there you can use this hike and bike trail that runs right behind our house. You are on the hike and bike trail for about a tenth of a mile before you turn off on a path where all you have to do is cross of over this cute little bridge with a dainty spring trickling beneath it and you are at the Y. Going to the Y today sort of felt like walking into my armoire and discovering Narnia. An indoor moon bounce for the kids? Yoga classes and free childcare? All there, just a hop, skip and a jump away.
Right now I have the clogged-ear/chlorine eye thing going on that I typically associate with summer and being ten years old. That's because I went SWIMMING today!!!!!! By MYSELF!!!!!! I can't even believe it! Did I mention the Y has an indoor swimming pool? Other people were there swimming with their kids, which I fully intend to do one of these days, but for today it was absolutely luscious (is that too strong a word?) to go swimming by myself. I dropped the kids off at the FREE childcare that the Y provides and they were like, See you later, Mommy. Don't let the gym door hit you on your way out. They were pretty psyched to jump to their little hearts' content on the moon bounce and maybe hang out at the coloring table a little later. I headed straight for the lady's locker room where I shed my giant puffy winter coat with the fake fur trim and slipped into my bathing suit. That is a strange feeling, going from a winter coat to a bathing suit. I felt very self-conscious walking from the ladies' locker room to the pool. I am pretty used to wearing the puffy coat everywhere, it seems. I slid into the lap lane labeled "slow" and started swimming. At first my swimming was a little awkward and I had to remember how to pace myself and get into a rhythm with my breathing. Once I got going it was the best feeling. I felt lighter than air. That's the thing about water, I guess. Your usual self is completely irrelevant in water. I forgot how my body feels moving through water, how it feels to use my arms and legs to push water out of the way and propel myself forward. I haven't swum in years, at least not for any significant chunk of time and certainly not by myself. I guess I haven't really gone swimming since I've had kids. Since having kids, my time in the water has been spent holding onto a flotation device with a child in it, or dangling my toes in the baby pool, chatting with other mothers while we watch our children toddle around in inches of water.
There is something incredibly isolated about swimming. Maybe it's because your head is underwater a significant portion of the time and so the sounds you hear are blurred beyond recognition. I can remember playing a game when I was little where a friend and I would take huge breaths, sink to the bottom of the pool and then sing songs to each other and see if the other person could recognize what we were singing. The songs always came out muffled and strange, like a whale was singing them backwards. Today, hearing my own breath and my own struggle for breath underwater was so strange. It reminded me that I am still me. That there is still a "me" apart from my children, that I am still an individual moving through the world like moving through water.
When I went to pick up the kids at the kids' gym I felt guilty for having such a good time without them. I knew my wet hair would be a dead give-away to Emma. She looked at me skeptically and said, "Where were you, Mommy?" And I told her I had been swimming and I looked down and waited for the indignation and the anger at being left out of such a fun activity. Instead, she looked at me and said, "in a pool?" She seemed interested, but not jealous. She was much more anxious to show me a picture of Cinderella and Prince Charming that she had colored. "I want to stay," she said. "I need to finish my picture." And with that she left me standing there outside the kids' gym, with my wet hair and my puffy coat, all alone.