The entire trajectory of my life would have been different had I been able to do a Catalina when I was in [Synchronized] Swim Club at Southfield High School. Not many people can put their finger on their personal critical juncture or in my case, my Waterloo, but I can.
It was try after try, sculling in the water, my toes on the pool trough, then trying to execute this sequence of moves: a ballet leg, then a twist, torso turned into the water, other leg brought up, graceful entry of both legs into the water, toes pointed perfectly, not a ripple of evidence left. I couldn’t do it no matter how many times I tried.
Here, it was supposed to look like this.
I could do the heavy lifting of synchronized swimming. I could manage the endless sculling to maneuver into pretty formations and stay afloat even when dressed in a Davy Crockett costume that included a full leotard and tights. I could keep a death grip with my feet on the neck of the girl in front of me while we executed a dolphin chain, basically a dozen girls linked together to do a backward long somersault underwater. This took grit but not finesse. Showing up, hanging on, and holding my breath. That was it.
Four years of synchronized swimming in high school and no Catalina. I tried for a long time and then I gave it up. I eschewed the Catalina, if you will, in favor of staying a scrub the entire time, decided almost that the girls who could do the Catalina were snobs. I was a working class synchronized swimmer. I didn’t need to show off, it was fine being one of dozens of legs waving in the air. Let the hotshots have the spotlight. So what?
So why was it that tonight when I ended up being the only swimmer at the local JCC, not a single other person in all of the other lanes, the water still and beautiful, and the lifeguard wandering around the pool picking up kickboards, why was it that I started thinking maybe I could go to the deep end and I could give it a try. A ballet leg, a twist….
But no, I thought, I’m just going to keep swimming. That’s what I do. I just swim.