When I was but a wee lad in the back of my family's 1997 Chevrolet Suburban and we were living in Montreal, the worst part of my week would be our weekly swimming lessons in Pointe-Claire. These were family-mandated. I wasn't much of a sporty kid: I didn't go out for hockey in winter, was maybe less-than-mediocre at soccer, which my dad coached in the summertime. I developed a weirdly intense enthusiasm for rollerblading that lasted only a couple of years. But when I think of childhood sports, I think of swimming.
I think of Pointe-Claire's strange tent-shaped pool building; think of the high-up plexiglas windows lining the gable that you'd only notice when doing the backstroke. I think of those timing clocks with four hands in different colours. I think of graduating to the grown-up pool within after getting my bronze badge. I think of the badges! I wonder what happened to those.
The funny thing is: looking back on all of those Wednesday nights, driving home in the midwinter darkness, under the orange glow of those high-pressure sodium streetlights which have lately all been swapped out for high-efficiency LEDs, I'm proud of myself. I've never felt ungainly in the water, swimming out to the island on Lake Sir John or to Pooh-sticks bridge, in the waves on the beach. I know I'm privileged to have been able to attend swim lessons—I recognise that privilege and I'm grateful for it. My parents were right. I do appreciate those swim lessons that I dreaded back then.
I've got a swim membership at the Mill House Leisure Centre in Hartlepool now; I've gotta get back on track if I have any intention of finishing my sprint triathlon later this summer in good time. It feels good to be back in the water. Hartlepool keeps their pool a lot warmer than Pointe-Claire did. But the heating cranked up in the changing rooms, the smell of chlorine, the black stripe on the bottom cutting through the vivid blue of the bottom of the pool, soothes me—even while I gasp between strokes on the front crawl. Swimming feels like wearing an old piece of clothing that still fits. Like the smell of an old house. I missed it without knowing it.