Summer is freedom for a child. Your school vacation begins.
No more homework, no more tests, and no more uniforms. I attended
Catholic school, wearing shorts and t-shirts was a respite from formality.
My family lived in an area of three-story brownstones in Brooklyn, N.Y. Pools weren’t anywhere in my neighborhood. There was a pool within a twenty-five minute bus ride. We never went there.
Sunday was our beach day in the summer. My father loved the beach.
Despite our no school discipline, he had a routine we had to follow.
We still attended mass on Saturday.
Sunday, we’d awake at 6:00 a.m., get dressed, grab our towels, pails, and shovels and be in the car at 7:00 a.m. It was an hour’s drive to Staten Island on a ferry. It was such fun to get out of the car and lean on the railing, feeling the ocean’s mist on my face.
Once we arrived at the beach, we all had items to carry to the water’s edge. My father cooked potato salad and fried chicken the night before.He was a cook in the army. He enjoyed cooking on the weekends. I was learning how to cook from him at age 5.
My task at the beach was to take care of my younger disabled brother. He was five years old, and I was ten. I’d collect shells with him and build things in the sand.
One Sunday, my father decided to teach all of us to swim. We watched him from the shore. He looked like a dolphin. I was apprehensive even though it looked like fun. It was my turn. He picked me up and took me way, way out. Eventually, he dropped me in the water.
Gurgle, Gurgle, Gurgle,
I swallowed water, flailed my arms, and thought I would drown.
After an eternity, my father picked me back up and walked me to shore. I cried and cried and cried. I was inconsolable. I never went in the water again. The sandy seashore was my safe place from that day forward.
I never did learn to swim, but I do doggie paddle in my pool. Many have tried to teach me, but my fear still lingers from that day. When my children could walk, I took them for swimming lessons. They’re all great swimmers, and one is Red Cross certified. I knew how much they would enjoy the beach, pool, and boating if they learned how to swim.