Swimming in Dress Socks
In rural towns there is usually that one family who has money. They usually did not make it in the town because let’s face it, rural Idaho farm towns are not the places one can make a fortune. These people bring it with them to a small town where they can escape, settle in, and become nobility. In my town, the Windsors (that’s what I’ve decided to call them) did the most awe inspiring thing. They put in a pool, and they generously opened it up for the kids in town to have swimming lessons.
We were a bunch of rugrats with little experience with the clear blue water of a swimming pool. Those of us who had been in chlorine purified water had done so on visits with the city relatives, or the very rare stayover at a hotel. Our usual swimming venues were brown green waters of canals, reservoirs, and rivers. But, here we were with access to the Windor’s pool. There would be no dodging animal poop as you swam, and when you got out, there would be no leeches to peel off your body.
Swimming lessons were a dream until the swimming pool tore up the bottom of my feet. I didn’t have normal rural kid feet. I was the only kid in town required to wear shoes at all times because I was allergic to bees. The times I had been stung had all been when I was running around barefoot in our clover filled lawn. I was embarrassed of my uncalloused, wimpy feet and wanted to quit swimming lessons. My parents didn’t want me to miss out, so my gram was called in to come up with a solution.
When Mom and Gram put their heads together to solve my problems, I could usually count on it being something completely embarrassing. For example, their solution to my rapid growth was not to purchase new pants that fit. No, they came up with sewing lace or bandanas to the bottom of my pants. That was mortifying, but not as much as what was about to occur for swimming lessons.
Nobody in small town Idaho knew what water shoes were, and I did not own a pair of non-leather sandals, so my dilemma was extra perplexing. In the end, the solution, which I fought to absolutely no avail, was that my feet were to be protected by a pair of my dad’s dress socks. In an extra ingenious move, my gram added rubber bands at the top so they wouldn’t be washed away while I swam. It was truly mortifying. I was teased by my swim classmates. I mean, who couldn’t resist poking at a kid in a swimsuit and dress socks? But, I went to swimming lessons every day and swam my heart out because I figured the only way I was getting out of the dress socks was to never have to touch the bottom of the pool.
When I say in the preface of A Backpack, a Eurorail Pass, and Some Serious Baggage that I write because I wish to get to a place where I can run unabashedly through the pages of my story, I don’t just mean the part of my story I tell in that book. I also mean stories like these. Although in this case, I believe I should be swimming unabashedly through the pages of my story. And, thanks to Gram and my mom, I can do that swimming quite well.