Character

A Swimsuit Memory

I shared this picture yesterday with a few friends, but needed to tell the bigger story.photo-9

Summer is here but it has been rainy and unseasonably cool here in Kansas. Two weeks out of school and we still hadn’t made it to the pool. Our first free afternoon came and the sun was, well sort of shining and we (Caro and I) were optimistic about the idea of our first trip.

Now understand, I’m no shrinking violet when it comes to pool time. I love the water and to me it is an undeniable part of summer. My jobs in high school and college revolved around lifeguarding and teaching swim lessons.  I’ve taken my kids to the pool for TWENTY years.

I’ve been there, done that.

But…the 40s have ushered in a whole new set of awkward “pings”, as my friend Melissia likes to call insecurities. With each passing year the “putting-on-the-bathing-suit-for-the-first-time” gets more and more of a mental/physical chore.

Kansas winters have a way of erasing my brain for all things aquatic. So this week, when the time came to load up and head to the pool I forgot to give myself the necessary margin needed before the first trip. I can usually turn on a dime and jump in the car when the pool calls, but apparently my mid 40s self needs a little extra time.

I ran in the closet to change and totally forgot about the hour-long conversation I needed to have with the swimsuit basket when I pull it out at the start of summer.

This year it was much more like a knock down drag-out argument. After much pleading and hurry-uping from my daughter, I just picked one, shoved myself into it and drove away. Thankfully, there weren’t yet that many crazies at the pool on that 73 degree day.  Caroline and I strode in like we owned the joint, plopped ourselves down by the pool and breathed deep.

That sigh of relief signals summer’s true beginning. The smell of chlorine and cocoa butter, mixed with the splashing and laughter of children…Ahhhh.  And it lasted about 8 seconds.

In horror, I looked down at my legs.  Apparently, approximately 14,753 new spider veins had crawled under my skin this past winter, wholly uninvited.  Why had I not noticed them over the past 10 months? As I’m counting I realize how many, shall I say epic, razor fails were also dotting these legs. Seriously? What am I, 12? I’ve been shaving a long time and yet…well, that is all I have to say about that.photo-69

I looked down quickly for something which I could casually cover the offensive limbs up with and realized that not only had I forgotten the much required, much forbidden Twizzlers or M-Ms package, I had somehow thought it was appropriate to bring a craft, complete with scissors and everything. WHAT?photo-70

As I leaned my traitorous 46-year-old body back and watched the high school babysitters (in their eensie-weeny bikini — where did they get those??) and their broods slowly start to populate my space, I came up with a new plan.

Next year, I’m scheduling a poolside practice day, a trial run if you will. Here’s my vision…I’ll rent out the pool, I don’t even care what it costs. I’ll invite all my water-loving friends OVER 40 to join me. There will be fun snacks and cool drinks and a changing room. We will carry our entire swimsuit collections to the pool. It’ll be this safe space where we can try on last years suits. Whatever crazy things may have happened during the cold dark winter can be faced down together. We will destroy the too small tops and/or bottoms with glee and camaraderie. We will share pool bag packing tips and ideas for cute coverups.  In the bright light of day, we will point out potential flaws that can be dealt with and not mention those that can’t, just like good friends do. About this point in my vision I start hearing this Gatsby song …

We can do this because we are girlfriends and know the important parts of each other. The truly beautiful, important parts which shine from the inside out. We could care less about the outer parts revealed at the pool. Truly.

After our trial run, we will be good to go. Ready to courageously take on the summer. But (sigh) that trial run will have to wait for another year. In the meantime, I pull out a memory I keep tucked in the swim suit drawer, for such a time as this.

About ten years ago, at a Texas hill country family retreat, a beautiful 80-year-old woman named Betty taught me everything I needed to know about rocking a swimsuit well. Mamas and daddies and kiddos played in the deep frigid water of the Frio River. Several of my friends and I sat, probably self-consciously, on the rocks talking.

Betty and her husband walked down to join the fun, swimsuit clad with towels draped around shoulders. She dropped her towel, chit-chatted with us without an ounce of self-consciousness or insecurity and then dove (!) into the river. She flipped over and backstroked to the middle. Smiling up into the sun she floated there, graceful as a swan.

I remember burning the image of this beautiful woman into my brain. Something inside instinctively told me that she had something very important figured out. No “pings” in that girl! That. That is how I want to live life. I’m pretty sure you won’t be having fun doing cannonballs in life, if you’re worried about spider veins and such.

So this summer, having gotten that hard first time experience out of the way, I’ll sit and read by the pool, swim with my kids and jump off rocks at the lake.  I’ll remember all the fun when the kids were little and dream about teaching a new generation to have fun in the sun too.  It is, what it is. Aging is hard, but I will not be defined by it. Thank you, Miss Betty!

Circa 2002...The good old days...
Circa 2002…The good old days…

5 thoughts on “A Swimsuit Memory

  1. Betty. Betty. I wonder how many women have her image LOCKED in the back recesses of our minds. I will not forget seeing her swimming on the Frio and have encouraged myself since then to forgo the battle in my mind and jump in. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Ahhh, Kelli this made me laugh out loud! And I thought “just wait til your 51!!!” I love summer and all the water activities that come with it! And yes, picking a bathing suit is a pain! But I love the example Betty gave you! My mother in law is a bit like that too because she loves the water so much!! Thanks so much for the reminder and great story!! Have a wonderful summer!!

  3. PRICELESS!!!!!!!!!
    Memories of decades gone by!
    Betty had guts, grace & spirit! It takes that
    to REALLY LIVE! You too are following in
    her footsteps! GO GAL!!! Love ya, Joan

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