At Nine
by Dana Colecchia Getz

There was little greater freedom than being a nine-year-old girl at the neighborhood pool. At Valley Brook Swim Club, tucked safely in a suburban cocoon of distant but watchful mothers, my girlfriends and I were taken off the leash and left to explore.

We had not yet realized that there was any reason not to toss ourselves backwards into the pool, rear end first, waving maniacally for our mothers’ attention. We were not yet aware that our thighs rubbed as we goofily waddled to the end of the diving board during our game of follow the leader. We had not yet noticed that we could be noticed.

Rather, we dove like dolphins, our eyes open and singed against the chlorine. Boundless stamina took us again and again to the slope that separated shallow from deep, where we would shed our gangly skins and emerge as graceful mermaids. Our powerful tails propelled us forward, past the dunking and irritating schoolboys, past the bouncing string bikinis. Underwater, our long, sun-streaked hair waved slowly behind us like the pennant of our youth.

There were only brief pauses for snacks—sticky red candy fish that we would cook in the afternoon sun. Down below us, the teen girls were on display in a sequence of lawn chairs, cautiously cocking one knee, methodically rubbing oil under their bikini straps. Meanwhile, we splayed our limbs like a game of colorful pick- up sticks on the itchy grass, stretching the perfectly melted candy between our hands and into our gaping mouths. Summer was never so sweet again.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION:  Amazingly, after spending most of my childhood summers at the neighborhood pool, no pictures of this seem to exist. This picture is actually of my own daughters at their neighborhood pool (Summer 2016).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: These vivid memories rushed back to me as I watched my daughters swimming with their friends. Seeing the pure, honest joy in them brought me back to that amazing period of childhood when I was old enough to explore, but young enough to still live boldly in my imagination.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dana Colecchia Getz lives in Pittsburgh with her husband, two daughters, and a one-eyed cat. She still loves to swim.