Today is my Da’s birthday. We called him this morning. He wasn’t out of bed yet. THAT, is some kind of divine retribution.
My father taught high school for years. He has a lot of patience with students; he can explain the same thing four different ways (or the same way four different times so that evnetually it sticks). However, Da used to take me ‘fwimmin’ (as Stitchface would say) every Wednesday afternoon. Then, after I started ‘fwimmin’ lessons, we went two or three times a week.
I’m not sure if you know this about me, but I am a girl. Therefore, I often use the girls’ changeroom at the pool.
When I first started going to the pool with my Da, I was just only wee, and it was Not a Problem that I hung out in the men’s changeroom (the STAFF changeroom, nonetheless). But, you know, by the time you turn twelve and start …well… developing in strange and wonderful ways, Some People start getting hangups about being nekkid around members of the opposite gender. I sincerely hope my children do not get these same hangups.
ANYWAY, eventually, I had to start using the girls’ changeroom. I was terrified and profoundly sad. I believe I was nine years old. I had always rather liked having a post-swim shower in the staff change room; they had a white shower with holes in the floor (not a floor drain; holes in the floor) and little blue tiles. Da let me ‘shampoo’ my hair with soap he’d
stolen acquired from hotels. Then, afterwards, we’d hang our bathing suits in Da’s locker, and I’d toss my water wings up on to the top shelf (i believed him when he told me they were broken. i believed him until I was in my mid-twenties), and we’d walk out together, out through the long, darkened, echoing hallway, out into the parking lot. My hair would freeze and I would chew on the frozen ends while we waited for the car to warm up.
It was a time for just Da and me. No one else could be part of that. It was a sacred ritual.
But then, he told me one day to go change in the girls’ change room. I was confused. Scared. It was so much *bigger* than the staff change room. Bigger brighter…full of people I didn’t know. Nameless, anonymous people who didn’t know me and didn’t know where I belonged, should i get lost. Da sent in one of the lifeguards – Judy was her name. She came in and showed me how to use my own locker, and how to find the pool from the maze of tile and steel doors and echoing shrieks and the roar of air dryers.
After that, it became an adventure.
But – here’s the thing. If I didn’t get changed after my fwimming lesson in less than twelve seconds (including underpants!), Da would walk into the womens’ change room and holler my name. There was shrieking, shouting, gasping, and finally, a heavy, heavy silence. It didn’t take long for all those nameless, anonymous people to understand where I belonged.
Sometimes, I still listen for his voice when I’m getting changed after swimming. I never thought I would miss those terribly embarassing moments. Actually, knowing my Da, I probably won’t have to miss them for long.
Happy Birthday, Da.