Glory Days

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*Another one of my archived posts from 2006*

Last night Adam and I went to grab some dinner with friends. We were sitting at the table talking, and the topic turned to my friend J- and I’s stint on the high school swim team. We were giggling, having a great time and talking about the “Statman”, when Adam said that someone probably fell into the water while waiting for me to finish swimming my race. WTF?? I didn’t think that was called for. I told him that was mean and made him brave the long line at the cash register to make up for it. But let me just give you a little background, and you tell me if you think that was an appropriate comment to make.
I started swimming when I was in the fifth grade. I had asthma pretty bad, and the doctor had mentioned to my mom that something like swimming would really help build up my lung capacity. My former swimming teacher had told me that I would really love being on a swim team, too. So my mom did some research and we found the swim team at our local YMCA.
The first night of swim practice, I was a chubby kid wearing her mom’s leotard because I refused to go and buy a bathing suit. My insecurities and bathing suit fears started early. Why I thought that a navy blue leotard was somehow better than facing myself in the dressing room, I’ll never know. Anyway, I entered the pool area and was shocked to see what looked like a thousand kids, all geared up with goggles and swim caps, talking and laughing with each other. Not one of them was wearing a leotard. I obviously didn’t have a swim cap or goggles either.
The coach asked me to jump in and swim a length of the pool so that he could see where to go with me. I did, and was immediately assaulted with chlorine and stinging in my goggle-less eyes. With my leotard bunching up under my arms, I barely made it down the other end. I was gasping for air and pushing the hair out of my face, and the coach suddenly whistled piercingly.
“We have a new team member!” he said to the gathering of kids on the pool deck. “Let’s all say hi and make her feel welcome!”
“Hi Devon!” everyone chorused dutifully.
And what did I do? Did I make some funny comment that immediately made everyone want to be friends with me? Did I do a swan dive to make everyone laugh? No. I was unprepared for all of this attention, so I did what anyone would do. (or just me?) I took a deep breath, smiled, and disappeared under the surface of the water without saying a word. Real cool, huh? That was the start of my swimming career.
Eventually, of course, I got myself a bathing suit. I had a million swim caps and a million and one pairs of goggles. I was able to swim more than one length of the pool, and despite my disasterous introduction I actually made some friends. But I never actually got any good at swimming as a sport. I was always in the slowest lane, always finished last place in every event, and never got to be on the “A” relay. For those of you who aren’t familiar with swimspeak, the “A” relay is a relay composed of the fastest swimmers. I was on the “B” or even “C” relay. I’m sure if there was a “Z” relay I would have been on that one.
High school came, and swimming was just such a big part of my life anyway that I joined the high school team. I was most definitely the worst one on this team. I was actually in a lane with mentally challanged people. No, really, I was. It’s okay to laugh. I never finished in anything but last place. I wasn’t even on the relays, except if they needed someone to join the slowest one.
But I loved it. I loved taking the bus to practice every day after school, sitting with my friends and eating snacks and listening to our walkmans. I loved getting changed in the locker room with everyone laughing and throwing things and being loud. I loved the pasta parties before big meets, the co-ed slumber parties, having built in friends. There was always someone that wanted to hang out, to go to the mall or the movies. Some of the best times of my life happened because of the swim team. The smell of chlorine can still make me nostaligic.
I swam my whole high school career. Yeah, I never got first place… or second… or third… but that wasn’t what mattered! I was a part of something.
So back to Adam’s comment… yeah, you may have fell into the pool waiting for me to finish the race, but you wouldn’t find anyone in that pool that loved being there more than me, and you also wouldn’t find some one with enough character (I like to put it that way, instead of “stupidity”) to get up on those starting blocks time after time, KNOWING that I would lose but still trying for just that one moment of glory.
I may have been slow, and I may have been last, but these… these were my glory days.

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