Chick Wit: Finally taking the plunge

I don't know how to swim but that doesn't stop me from trying.

Let me explain.

I never learned how to swim, because it involves putting your head under water, which is a problem for me, as I require oxygen to live.

Also I'm terribly nearsighted, so if I take my glasses off, which is the kind of thing people expect when you swim, I can't see the Atlantic.

When I was little, I would go stand at the water's edge and jump waves with my brother. I have recurrent nightmares of being drowned, which is either a residual memory of those days or a flashback to my second marriage.

You won't be surprised to know that Mother Mary can't swim, either. She always says that she has a deal with the sharks. She won't go in the water if they won't go on the land.

When we were little, she would go to the water's edge to watch us and make sure we were safe. That she couldn't swim didn't seem to matter.

We lived, so it must have worked.

I'm lucky enough to have a pool and I've been known to float around on an inflatable raft and fall asleep. I also do a lot of clinging to the side, like a girl barnacle. I hang on tight and walk myself around the pool, hand over hand, which is kind of like swimming on land.

But last week, when the temperature hit 100 degrees, I eyed my pool and told myself it was time to conquer my fear.

Putting on a bathing suit.

Just kidding.

I have no problem putting on a bathing suit. After all, no one else is around, and the dogs think I look super hot. They have great taste, even if they think cat poop is a meal.

So I went into the pool, stood in the shallow end, and decided to swim a lap. I wasn't sure how to go about it, as I lack gills, but I'd seen Penny do it a bunch of times. So I started paddling, my head above water, and all four paws flailing wildly.

Dear reader, I made it to the side. Gasping. Panting. Exhausted. But alive. Which only encouraged me to get Mother Mary into the act. Yes, she's still here, and no, I didn't use her for a raft.

It began with, "Ma, wanna come in the pool?"

And ended with "please please please."

But when the temperature hit 104 degrees and the power went out, including the air-conditioning, my nagging did the trick. She came to the pool with me and put her feet in. We sat on the side, me in a bathing suit and her in her tank top and shorts. Our feet dangled in the water, and she wears a size 5 1/2 shoe, which means that there are kittens with bigger feet.

"Feel cool?" I asked her.

"No. Feels wet."

"I paid extra for wet," I told her. "And look, no sharks."

"I don't like it."

In the last column about Mother Mary, the headline read, "Mother Mary, why so contrary?" I don't write the headlines, but I had to admit it was kinda true. "Mom, you say 'no' a lot, you know that?"

"No, I don't."

I thought about it then, looking at her tiny feet under the clear water. She's come a long way. She was the youngest of 19 children and had a mother who wanted her to drop out of high school, go to work, and bring home her salary. But she insisted on graduating. In short, she said no.

And she still does.

"Ma, you don't have to go in the pool if you don't want to."

"Good. Let's go."

So I helped her to her feet and put her into her sneakers, and we walked to the house, hand in hand. "Swimming is overrated, anyway," I told her. "I know, I tried it."

"Don't do it again, without me there."

"I won't," I promised her. "You want salmon for dinner?"

"No," she said, and we went inside.


Lisa Scottoline's new novel, "Save Me," is on sale now. Lisa's and Francesca Serritella's essays have been published in "My Nest Isn't Empty, It Just Has More Closet Space" and "Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog." Visit Lisa at www.scottoline.com.