In this memory, I am nine years old. In the summer, I go to the local public pool with my parents to practice swimming. At school, we have recently started learning the front crawl, and I need to practice it so that I can catch up with the rest of the class. I am not very good at swimming.
Neither of my parents swims well. They can float and do some random stroke, but that’s about it. They have never even tried the front crawl in their lives. When my mother was little, her school did not have a pool, so she did not have to take any swimming lessons. At my father’s school, swimming lessons were not mandatory.
“I wish my school didn’t have a pool either,” I sigh as I dip my feet in the water. “Then I wouldn’t have to suffer like this!”
At school, I am one of the very few people who don’t yet know how to swim. Most of my classmates go to a swimming school, and they already know how to swim not only the front crawl, but also the backstroke, the breaststroke, and even the butterfly. It feels so miserable to be struggling in the water while others swim effortlessly on the other side of the pool.
It is a beautiful day today. The sun is shining bright above us and the water is not cold. When I immerse myself in the water, it feels wonderful. Around me, there are many families with children of my age or younger. Their cheerful voices make this place much different from the pressured atmosphere of my school’s poolside.
I start practicing the flutter kick in the children’s pool. I travel from one side of the pool to the other, then back again. I seek some guidance from my parents, but they have little clue. My mother finds somebody who is swimming the front crawl and tells me to observe them. She says maybe my legs should be more this way or that way. Or my arms should be moving like this or that. Then I continue my practice diligently.
My parents, who are usually quite serious about my education, are completely on a vacation mode today. I am the only one who is working hard. My father is swimming with a kickboard and a big smile on his face. My mother is swimming the breaststroke with her head over the water surface, laughing. They are being silly and having fun. What a different world they live in, I wonder to myself. I should also have some fun.
I leave my parents behind in the children’s pool and walk over to the adults’ pool. The water is deeper here. I immerse myself in the water and float. As I hold my legs in my arms and stay still, I hear people’s chattering voices in the distance. I hear the sound of water tapping against the wall. I see the sunlight reflecting on the blue floor and a few summer insects floating around me. Suddenly, a smile plays on my lips and turns into a grin. Floating in the water by myself, I feel like I have tapped into the biggest secret of the world.
When I come out of the water, my parents call me. It’s time to go home now.