Lily’s first adventure with a swimming pool

This is a story that I find really funny in hindsight, and which must have been horrifying at the time (although my parents did find some humor in it even then, I know). It’s also really informative about my sister’s personality, which I realized when I told this story to a friend the other day. I bring you: Lily and the swimming pool…

My mom used to work for an organization that included a school for people with visual impairments. My sister went to preschool there, because she was Mom’s daughter and, you know, born with one eye that wasn’t entirely typical. Anyways, there were a couple of kids in this class, and it was nice that Mom could be so close to Lily and be able to pick her up from school on the way home from work without any of the other complications of relieving babysitters or dealing with daycare that would mark our later years. (I have no memory of what kept me busy after school at the time in question, or even what my mom’s schedule was. There’s a chance she was working part-time then and was already home. But I digress.)

Anyways: Lily. In school. Social kid who loves to play? She was a happy camper. And it was a great place to be, given that they could provide her with the resources she needed. They had a pretty nice campus, including a swimming pool, and one day, the teacher decided to take the class swimming. I recall there being only three or four students in the class.

Mom packed Lily’s swimsuit and towel and possibly other stuff; now she needs earplugs if her head’s going to get wet, because she’s got damage to her eardrums, partly due to tubes that have worked themselves out, and water in the ears invites infection. (Amusingly, I know this because I had many cases of swimmer’s ear as a youngster, and never did after I learned how to swim.) The teacher got them all to the pool and decided to take one child in at a time.

One teacher. Several children. My brave, independent, very young and enthusiastic and not entirely logic-using sister. (Yes, this is going there.)

I remember my Dad commenting that the other kids were content to sit on the side of the pool, waiting their turns to go out in the water. Not so Lily. The way it was told to me, the teacher had taken a student into the water and was helping the student stay afloat, so she turned her back on the other kids…and heard a splash. Which, yup, was my sister, who had simply launched herself off of the side and into the water.

What followed must have been minor chaos. I know the teacher got the other student safely on the side and – also safely – retrieved my sister. I know that my mom was quickly called in (remember, she worked there!) and that Lily was fine. Nowhere in my memory is there the apperance of emergency medical personnel. But I really do remember my parents being able to laugh about this pretty quickly: this tiny, physically (and mentally) atypical kid turned out to be an intrepid explorer who wouldn’t let anything stand in the way of her getting what she wanted.

Decades later, it turned out that Lily still loves, loves, loves the water. She’s taken a bunch of swim classes at her local community college, working with swim buddies. We’ve got some great photos of her from her participation in a local Special Olympics swimming event, where she had some help and flotation devices, but was doing the hard work on her own. I’ve gone swimming with her at home and when I was her aide at a weeklong summer camp. (I’ve had my own formative experiences with water that led up to my being able to help Lily; that might warrant a separate post someday.) Some family friends got Lily an inflatable pool a few years ago, and she’s spent plenty of time in the hot summer sun of my parents’ backyard, splashing around, and we even replaced the pool a couple of times after it got caught on the bricks of the patio. And now, of course, she even lives in an apartment with an in-ground pool, and some of her staff are qualified to help her swim there.

The other thing about this incident is that it lends itself to foreshadowing: well, it wasn’t terribly long after that that Lily, clad only or primarily in her diaper, started climbing the ladder to my bed – the upper half of our bunkbed. (Lemme tell you, the pictures of that are pretty funny. Yes, it happened enough that there are pictures.) And her climbing up on the piano. Or escaping from the house and wandering away from home. I think the only thing that scared Lily when she was little was my grandparents’ dog, and that stopped as soon as Lily was able to walk enough to realize that she was taller than said dog, and – maybe? – that the dog’s “loud” barking wasn’t all that much different than her own yowling. But…those are stories for later.


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