We have spent a large amount of time at the pool this summer. It doesn't hurt that Ames just opened its Furman Aquatic Center this year, after promising to be open mid-summer last year, only to not open at all. Those who argued that Ames didn't need an aquatic center need only drive by the frequently filled parking lot and crowded pool complex to see that they were sorely mistaken. When we went on Memorial Day this year, there were lines for inner tubes, for the lazy river and all the slides. The initial fervor has died down some, but it's still well attended and a nice addition to Ames. Really, a city our size should have something like this.
Anna is at a perfect age for swimming. And unlike me at that age, she's actually pretty good at it and unafraid of the water for the most part. My mom frequently tells the stories of how, when I was a kid, they signed me up for swimming lessons and I would barely even get in the water. The beginning level of swimming lessons was called "Dunkers" and all you had to do to pass Dunkers was dunk your head under the water. No can do. So I flunked Dunkers. I think my folks grew so weary of my resistance that I don't really recall having swimming lessons much more after that. This is not so for Anna. She is forever saying "Dad, count how long I can stay underwater" or "Dad, count how many underwater somersaults I can do." She is like a little fish. She's not ready for the deep end by any stretch, but she's getting there.
The Furman Aquatic Center has something for everyone - a "pond" for the little kids which contains a play structure with slides and what not, topped by a big bucket that showers the kids with water at regular intervals. There's a 50 meter "lake" in which most of the action takes place. Lap lanes for swimming and basketball hoops for playing, it's where we end up spending most of our time. There's also a lazy river and several slides, as well as platform and springboard diving. They really did it right when they planned this. The only problem with it is that there's not enough parking by half on busy days, leaving those unlucky enough to get there when the lot's full to park at the high school and make a 10 minute walk to the pool.
Without fail, there is always drama at the pool of some sort. One day, we arrived just as the ambulance was pulling up to whisk someone away on the gurney after they had a seizure or something. Another night, Heidi and Anna went and two sisters were fighting so badly the pool staff had to break it up. Then there was the infamous night that they had to clear the pool because someone pooped in the pool. True to form, tonight someone barfed in the pond section, leading to its closure for 30 minutes. Fortunately, the chlorine level has been cranked up to "phosgene" so we're all good.
As you can probably guess, I've gotten over my fear of the water, although I never really learned to swim properly. My daughter can swim circles around me. It was just she and me tonight, and is is frequently the case when we do things just the two of us, it was tinged with just a titch of bittersweet. As she dove and did handstands and somersaults, I remembered how she used to wear her goggles, snorkel and fins in the tub. I should have known she'd take to water. I am also, as many of you know, acutely aware of the passage of time with this, my only child. Sometimes, the fact that I only get to do this once gets me down, but it makes me slow down and when I would otherwise dismiss her because I'm tired or busy or distracted, I stop and take the time. I enjoy the time with her that is going faster than I would like, but I know that the next phase will be something new and different. Someday the "Hey Dad, guess what?"s will stop and lead to inevitable moody adolescence. But my goal is to lay the groundwork now so that she trusts me enough to come to me when things get angsty later on. But she sang Kylie's "Get Outta My Way" at the top of her lungs on the way home tonight, so we'll just savor this moment.
In the meantime, we'll be in the pool, getting soaking wet.