It was three o’clock in the afternoon, the sun’s intensity radiated hot and the golden rays ransacked the cool that my daughter and I sensed in our home. Nothing was atypical about this summer day in the desert. Mid-August meant temperatures over a hundred degrees and the taste of sand lingering from the recent sandstorm. Another sign of the summer: My five-year-old daughter needed an activity to stop the incessant, “Momma I am bored. What are we going to do next?” To answer her question, we decided to walk a quarter mile to the community center and swim in the pool.
As we walked, my daughter’s concern focused on the lines of the gray sidewalk, her excitement building because the waves of the blue goodness, colorful swim noodles, and drenched hair laid within her grasp.
“Momma, we are here. Oh, momma, come on.” I believe the whole pool stood to attention, confusing my daughter with a military boot camp instructor.
“Ok. Just one minute. Let’s put on some sunscreen.” I tell her, while multitasking the sunscreen bottle, the bag on my shoulder, and the towel in my hand.
She stays still for the five minutes, while the spray of the can creates a small fog around my eyes, but not hers.
“Momma, I have to tell you something. Quick.” She grabs my finger and pulls my arm down so that my ear is very near to her mouth. Usually she is not afraid to announce her innermost thoughts in her loudest megaphone voice. But I know that my five-year-old’s desire to whisper into my ear means serious business.
“Momma, those people over there, they forgot their swimsuits. They are only wearing underwear and a protector.” I laugh to myself because she is using my code word for bra. She conveys this information not knowing what to make of it and expecting me to make sense of it.
I glance over where she is pointing and spot three women, one who is tanning in her leopard print bikini, her stomach not bearing witness to a child, but to a belly button ring, and the other two are standing in their respective bikinis, laughing and unaware that my five year old thinks they have forgotten to wear their clothes. For some reason, a day at the community center wasn’t the day I wanted to pick up on my own insecurities. I fidgeted with my watch and the weight of my capris and short sleeve top sank on me almost like I donned an astronaut’s suit to the community pool. My goal was to watch my daughter swim at the shallow end of the pool for as long as she could stand the sun. But I noticed that I was one of the few people near the pool that dressed in street clothes.
This scene reminded me of a summer when my parents took me to a pool in Hot Springs, Arkansas. My parents vacationed with other families that year and all of the Moms because of their Indian heritage, decided to swim with their knee length pants and long shirts. I asked my Mom, “Why aren’t you wearing a swimsuit?” I still remember her response. “It gets too cold in the water. And showing skin. . . . “ Her voice trailed off and she ended with, “Just go play.”
“Momma, why are they wearing that?” My thoughts are interrupted and I realized that this wasn’t a dream, but happening in real life. Her voice wasn’t as discreet this time and I knew that I had to answer quick before the women started to notice that she was talking about them.
“Well, honey, they forgot. Yes, they were in such a hurry to go swimming, they didn’t put on the rest of their swimsuit.” I tell her this in a very definitive way, using my best motherknowsall voice.
I felt the sun eavesdropping on our conversation too long, knowing I probably didn’t give her the right answer.
But eventually she will learn. Just like I did.