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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Swimming in the Past

Lately I've been reminiscing about things in the past. Maybe it is my age...."young, young" my hubby and I always chant when we think about it. But face it. No spring chickens we.

Maybe it is the times we are living in, where we see the America of our youth changing, not to the good, and we see it slipping away. I imagine my parents thought the same thing in the 60's and my grandparents in the 30's. Its a generational thing.

Maybe it is that I'm going to be a Grandmother for the first time and now I'm thinking even more seriously about the next generation and wonder what his/her childhood memories will be like. The idea that Hip Hop music may be the "Oldies" of the future for my grandchild is unsettling.

About the Grandmother thing. YAY!!!! Awesome. I can hardly wait. And I plan to post more about that later.

This post is about reminiscing about the past, so back to my meandering thoughts. On another blog the conversation turned to swimming and which is better. The Ocean or Lakes. I say Ocean is better.

I grew up mostly in California and swimming as children in the summertime was where ever our parents took us.

We learned to swim in summer programs at the local high school. Every day of the week over many summers we would be dropped off for an hour of swimming lessons. Starting with madly kicking our way from one end of the pool to the other behind floaty boards to eventually being able to master the butterfly stroke. Then we would have a lunch break where the pool closed for an hour. My brother and I would walk across the street to the small Mom and Pop grocery store on the corner. We would suppliment our bag lunch with sodas, pretzles, ice cream bars and for my brother the latest edition of The Green Lantern or other comic to add to his collection.

After lunch we would go back and swim for another couple of hours for open swimming. This is when all the kids in the area would ride their bikes in from all over the neighborhoods or their parents would drop them off, pay 50 cents or so to swim. Then we would play and frolic in the water and the sun for hours.

Imagine it compared to today. NO sunscreen, resulting in massive sunburns. No adult supervision other than a few lifeguards. Kids playing and yes bullying, pushing, shoving, dunking without hovering parents or other adults to interfere in the fun. Freely able to wander around the neighborhood. Buy junk food if we wanted. Today parents who allowed these sort of things would be arrested for child abuse. However, we as children LOVED it.

I became quite a good swimmer and was on swim team in high school.

Occasionally, on a weekend, my parents would take us to a company picnic at a local reservoir. Those were fun times but the swimming was terrible. This is where I got my distaste of lake swimming. The only way to swim was to wade out through the weeds, muck and who knows what that your feet could feel on the bottom of the lake until you got out to where you could actually swim for any distance.... if you watched out for boats.

The Ocean is where the real swimming and best summer swimming memories lie for me. As a teen growing up in California if you didn't surf, body surf or at least go to the beach and hang with your friends who surfed, you were a nerd. That word didn't exist then, but the concept sure did.

Beach Boys, Jan and Dean. Hot summer sun at the beach. Cool cars cruising the main in the balmy California summer nights. Clean hot beach sand. The boardwalk with the carnival atmosphere, rides, more junk food.

And of course, warm beer bought by that cool older guy or gal that you happened to know, liquor pilfered from the parent's stash. My parent's later told us, they knew all about it, but figured it was a part of growing up just as they did in the 40's. Rites of passage so to speak. As the 60's morphed into the 70's, beer morphed into other illegal recreational substances and the music morphed into Jefferson Airplane and The White Rabbit, Tower of Power and Bump City.......but enough about that. I'm about to be a Grandmother for God's sake. (smile)

Moving away from the coast to the Sierra Nevada mountians:
I loved to swim in the mountain rivers and streams. The Feather River, before they drowned it under a huge resevoir was wonderful. No crud on the bottom of the river. We would take an ice chest full of food, drinks and walk down steep trails and over flumes to get to the swimming holes and spend all day. You couldn't swim for any distance like I was used to doing, but the water was wonderful to float upon and dive into. Getting down to the river was a challenge. Getting back after a day of 'recreation' was even more so.

Crystal clear and very cold rushing water while the granite boulders were hot from the baking sun and would immediately soak up the wetness from your skin. There were deep pools between the rapids, where the water would be calm and clear. I would dive to the bottom and fluff up the sand and pick up gold nuggets and interesting rocks that had been hidden for years and years. I have a worn down ring that I wear every day that was made from those nuggets and a beautiful rock that I rescued from a deep pool. I've carried both of these with me for the last 30 years.

I look at the rock and imagine the millions of years it took to create it, polish it and wear it down. I imagine the trillions of gallons of water that carved it from a larger shape to what it is now. To me the rock represents time and endurance. Ah....time.

After they drowned the river, we would go swimming in the middle of the reservoir from houseboats or floating platforms anchored off shore. It was strange and slightly erie to think that our previous summer swimming holes were lurking 50 to 80 feet or more below our feet. Never to be seen again. Dark and now covered with silt. Existing only in our memories which will vanish when we do. No bottom anywhere. Just steep mountain sides on most of the rim of the lake.

The memories of swimming. I hardly swim anymore unless we are someplace where there is a pool or we are at the ocean where it is warm. Now when I go out in the sun to swim or to lounge around, sunscreen and hat are the norm. Probably too late to protect my skin from the hours and hours in the sun as a child and youth and young adult, but I wouldn't trade the memories for anything.


  1. Dear DBQ

    Just wanted to thank you for the enjoyment I get out of your musings. This post, and other thoughts ("he's got my back" comes to mind particularly) I have forwarded shamelessly to my family.

    Also recipes. Sorry.

    But I'm moved to write just now because of your recent "What if what annoys other people is women wearing long skirts that look like they were made from WWII parachutes and mary jane shoes that went out of style in 5th grade?"

    I have been searching for the right words for that 'look' for frustrating ages - and you just shot that off seemingly without even thinking about it.

    We are the same age, but I am one grand child ahead of you by 10 months. You will love it! But I just wish my lovely wife were still alive to share the joy.

    With greetings from Australia - where your California youth was my east coast of Australia


  2. We are the same age, but I am one grand child ahead of you by 10 months. You will love it! But I just wish my lovely wife were still alive to share the joy.

    Thank you for your kind comment. I really don't expect anyone to read my blog but it is nice to know that someone does.

    My mother passed away when my daughter was very small and I wish every day that she was still alive to see what a fine young woman her grand daughter has grown into and would be able to have the joy of being a GREAT grandmother. She would be so very proud.

    I'm sorry for the loss of your wife. Maybe your wife and my mother are looking on from another plane and are still able to feel the joy.

  3. Wonderfully evocative post. I'm a few years behind you in the mad rush to the end, but I find myself musing more often about the unfettered childhoods we enjoyed, free to roam and endure the occasional minor cuts and scrapes while blessedly unsupervised from dawn til dusk.

    What our kids (or grandkids) are missing out on is nothing less than freedom -- real freedom. Is it any wonder so many seem to rush into the comforting embrace of the Nanny State?


  4. Great post. Full of warm memories.