I love summer. Summertime and the living’s easy as Ella Fitzgerald sings. I don’t really enjoy the massive heat wave which has taken over the East coast area, but we have sought relief at our local pool. Jonah, my anxiety riddled son, has left getting his swim band until the last minute. The last minute being August. A swim band grants children at our local pool under the age of 14 access to the slides, the deep end, the beloved rope swing. For some reason, he delayed his band test this year even though he has taken it for the last three years and passed it each time.
“I just don’t understand this level of anxiety,” my husband says as he picks up his comic book. “He’s already passed it.”
While waiting for the appointed swimband testing time, Jonah paces back and forth between the table and my beach chair. Each time he pulls on my wrist to check the time.
“You know there is a huge clock on the wall,” I tell him as I pull my arm back to my book. The sudden motion causes the dragonfly, which was perched on top of my page, to fly away again.
“Yes, Mummy,” he says with his fake British accent. He has started using this when he is annoyed with me but is still forced to address me.
“Yes, Mummy, I will stop my game and help you set the table.”
“No, Mummy, I have not yet taken my vitamins. I am busy.” He also says “vita-mins” with a pause and a short “a” sound, mimicking he English pronunciation he has heard on one of his Youtube channels.
“Jonah, why are you so nervous? You have already done this, buddy?”
“I know,” he responds, “but don’t you remember when Frank didn’t pass last year. It was horrifying.” He wasn’t wrong. Watch his buddy Frank getting pulled from the water by a lifeguard in front of ten other kids struggling to stay afloat looked like a scene from Titanic.
“You’ll be fine. Do you want one of us to go over with you?” He shook his head.
“No, I got this.” But his continued pacing was seriously raising my anxiety level. It was all I could do to keep from pacing with him as I watched as a sixteen year old girl brought over the clipboard and a large box filled with the coveted swimbands. It is weird to think that a girl this young could have so much power. “Well, I better go over. It looks like the lifeguard is starting to set up.”
“It doesn’t even matter if he passes,” my husband says as he flips his page as Jonah moves out of earshot.
“What do you mean?” I aks. “Of course it matters.”
“He will just keep on swimming in the other end of the pool like he has done all summer.” He is right. It’s not like Jonah’s failure is going to follow him through life or destroy his chances of entering college, but I am nervous all the same. I watch has the group of kids stand on the edge of the pool down at the deep end. The lifeguard blows the whistle and they all jump in to begin treading water for one full minute. The stages of the bandtest are pretty straightforward: tread water for a minute, swim from one end of the pool to the other, float on your back for 30 seconds.
The first few years at the pool we couldn’t even get Jonah to agree to take it. Three years ago, he final agreed, but a failure now may derail any chance of his taking it again in the future. He could be a twelve year old who could not legally swim in the deep end. Within a few seconds I watched as lifeguards plunged in to help some of the swimmers. There was no way to tell if it was Jonah. I could not identify him among all of the bobbing heads.
A minute or so later, I saw him walking back. “Oh, look,” Cole said smiling, “he did it.” One his wrist there was a black band, but I could tell by his walk he was not entirely happy.
“See, what did I tell you,” my husband said. I sighed and shifted my book closed so I could hear all about his victory.
“So, buddy, it looks like your efforts paid off,” I said as he neared. Dripping wet, he held up his arm.
“It was really tough, Mom. I didn’t think I was going to make it. They started pulling kids out and it was only me and one other kid,” his words came out sporadically because he was now suddenly out of breath.
“Wait, out of all of those kids, only you and one other kid passed?” The sudden realization that so many other kids failed increased my nervousness and pride. “So,” I said smiling. “See you did it. You thought you weren’t going to make it and you succeeded. I am so proud of you. You did a hard thing and it turned out really well.”
“Yeah,” he responded looking down at the grass. “When are we leaving, Mummy?”
And this is why summer days are the best…