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Oh, we can be heroes, just for one day

September 7, 2009

On the very last day of the summer, I rescued a frog.

He was a very small frog, green with dark green spots and a pale belly, perched on the edge of the pool’s gutter, his shadow reflecting bluely in the water, doubling his apparent size. As I swam down to the deep end, I saw him, poised to leap in front of the class as we swam to the deep end on the last day of water aerobics. I fished him out on the flat of my palm and placed him gently on the lip of the pool, where he sat surveying us benignly for a few minutes before hopping slowly away.

Nobody squealed or complained about the frog in the pool. They are not the sort. These fifty-, sixty- and seventy-something women have seen a great deal, and seldom fret about small things. I hear about it at every class. “Who are you talking about?” asked one as I swam back from frog rescue mission. “The one where her husband murdered her?” “Oh, that never really happened,” said another, “it was just a rumor.” “No, it wasn’t her anyway. It was the one whose false teeth fell out during the bridge game.” Oh, yes, suddenly everyone knew the one we were talking about. And the frog was long gone.

Everyone but one showed up this morning for the last day of class – the one is the youngest of them and a high school biology teacher, so we lose her shortly before Labor Day every year. The weather was perfect and the pool inviting, if not totally frogless.

One of our members made her very first visit of the summer. She’s always been a die-hard regular, but she had a heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery in May. It was a big celebration today when she showed up. She compared surgery scars with the woman who had breast cancer surgery two years ago, but then thought better of it. “We don’t want to be talking about that,” said the returnee “It’s too depressing.” “But we’ve all got our battle scars,” said another one, the artist who substitute teaches. And there were murmurs of agreement from all sides.

The woman who had the heart attack was a wake up call for everyone. She had been the most active of us all, walking daily, playing golf and competitive tennis several times a week as well as going country line dancing every Thursday afternoon. She knows more about contemporary rock music than I do. She showed us all her new ring, a present from her husband for her fiftieth wedding anniversary.

We laughed extra hard today as we told stories and listened others, and worked through our routines, all the way to the final stretch. At the end, as people muttered about their reluctance to leave the pool on such a beautiful morning, the woman with the breast cancer scar said she’d brought her camera and she wanted us all to go off the diving board. “I’ve always wanted to do it and my kids won’t let me. I want someone to take my picture.”

I stood with the camera by the diving board as one by one, they walked down the board and leapt into the water. Every one of them came up laughing, every one wanted to do it again. “Teacher, you need to go too!” I protested. And here is the truth: I’m a little scared of diving boards. I grew up by the ocean and learned to swim there. I didn’t managed to teach myself how to dive until I was fifteen, and then only because I used to go to my friend’s grandmother’s house where there wasn’t a lot of audience. It was enough to let me pass my lifeguard exam a year later, but after that, I don’t think I ever dived again.

I walked down the diving board and stood for a minute looking down. “Don’t do that,” said one of them. “It looks too far. Just close your eyes and jump.” I paused for a minute then walked back down the diving board, jumped and yelled, sinking with a splash for what seemed like a forever silence, before emerging with another exhilarating splash to yells and applause and peals of laughter. Everyone screamed for more and the leaps into the water continued for another twenty minutes before we all remembered the things we had to do. In the mean time, there will be pictures. I took one of the breast cancer survivor, stepping off into space. I took one of the art teacher, her graying blonde hair flying. And somewhere there is a picture of me in midair, paused between earth and water, waiting to land.

“That was too much fun!” Yelled one from the edge of the pool. “Next year,” yelled another, “Next year we’re doing it NAKED!”

As for the frog, he had disappeared into the cool green grass at the edge of the pool. But we could hear him as we packed up our things to go, chirping happily.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. September 7, 2009 3:30 pm

    If this were the first page of a book, I would definitely keep reading.

  2. freshhell permalink
    September 7, 2009 7:41 pm

    I’m pretty sure Bowie had frogs in mind when he wrote that song.

  3. silveryeverafter permalink
    September 7, 2009 9:35 pm

    I agree with Julia. What an exhilarating finale!

  4. September 8, 2009 9:00 am

    Diving is one of those things that when adults do it, they think “this is so much fun! Why don’t I do it more often?” until the next time. There’s a metaphor.

  5. September 8, 2009 3:33 pm

    Funny. I haven’t been off a diving board in years, but this weekend, I dove into the deep end, and went down the tunnel slide. It was indeed exhilarating.

  6. crankygirl permalink
    September 9, 2009 6:29 am

    if you get the pictures, i’d love to see them.

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