The Last Summer
I have many happy childhood memories spent at the local swimming pool. It was a large but simple complex, where I spent school swimming days and had swimming lessons in summer’s evenings. Occasionally we’d have a barbecue dinner with another family at the pools; my parents passing out plastic plates and opening bags of crisps.
I thought of those summer evenings of my childhood over this last summer; my last summer before becoming a parent. My third trimester of my pregnancy spanned the summer. The days grew hotter and then gradually cooled as I grew bigger. I purchased a maternity swimsuit and would walk the 25 minute walk to the pools early on the weekend mornings. Leggings, t shirt, full brim sunhat and backpack; I looked more like I was setting off on a serious hike than just walking down to the pools before breakfast.
But once I was in pools, I was free again. Free to be as fast as I was before I was pregnant. Free to be just me, and the baby; not encumbered by my slowing body, the heat, and the gaze of others on my growing baby and I. I would arrive at the pools just as the serious swimmers were leaving, but before the families were arriving. It was usually my husband and I, and a few grey haired regulars. Often we would each have lane to ourselves. The sun rising, the seagulls lazily picking at the soggy hot chip from the night before, and me willing myself to do just one more lap before waddling home for a rest.
When the days were cooling off, and my maternity leave started I continued to go up the hill to the pools. The summer was waining, as my pregnancy due to its own conclusion. I would slowly dress and undress in the open air changing rooms of the outdoor pools. The concrete construction of the changing rooms was exactly the same as the pools of my childhood. After a swim I needed to sit down and rest before the walk home. I would watch the empty barbecue areas and picnic tables, and thought of summers of my youth and summers to come. Each time I left I would try to take in the sight of the pools, empty in the morning sun of the dying summer, and I would imagine who might be with me next time I would come there.
I returned to the pools recently, but the seasons have changed and I have changed too. We turned up at the pools on a day of howling rain in late winter. The outdoor pool will be closed for several months yet. My husband, myself, and our daughter, now resting in her pram. She no longer breathes from within me. I slipped back into the water and push off. Up and down the indoor pool I swim. I am no longer slow, nor in the gaze of others. I look just like everyone else now. Except I have changed so dramatically it almost seems comically that strangers should not see it. Forever now on the other side of the divide that is child or parent, than I was last summer.