Friday, December 26, 2014

The fleeting memories of summer

By Andy Jones

I spent an hour or so this morning at the UC Davis Rec Pool, watching my 7-year-old son Truman enjoy a private swimming lesson. Such lessons help to transform the potential fear and peril that a youngster might associate with the water into a feeling of independence and confidence.

And such a setting! As you probably know, the Rec Pool is ringed at a distance with pine and palm trees whose branches’ habitual sway offers plenty of shade to the parents to relish as we shift our lawn chairs with the shifting sun. I see parents of the youngest children hover nearby, with an eye on the instructor to whom they have entrusted their futures, while the parents of the older kids are eager to catch a break; they pair and triple up in the shade, sharing gossip, stories and jokes. Or so I imagine. Only their laughter can be heard to a faraway viewer such as my wife Kate or myself.

Similar positive energy emanates from the instructors, especially Truman’s teacher, Taylor, who kept telling Truman that his attempts at pencil dives and side-breathing were “super-good” and “really awesome,” the language that sometimes creeps into the rough drafts of my students’ essays.

With Taylor’s constant stream of encouragements came an absolute focus on our boy, the sort of attention that is necessary if she is to inspire the trust of children and their parents. Like a dance instructor, Taylor guided, cajoled and directed with her arms, lifting and stabilizing Truman while he tried earnestly to hear her instructions through his earplugs, and meet her expectations. Sometimes even our muscle memories are fleeting.

Meanwhile, the gentle morning heat lazes above the families and the swim instructors, reminding us all that we should move, think and work more slowly on a summer day than we do during the other nine months of the year. Immersed in the poolside sounds of summer, and the warm morning like a comfortable silk garment, each of us pretends for a moment that we are the children that we see around us, with nothing more pressing than the thoughts of an unhurried brunch of berries, a play-date with a friend from school (remember school?), and the water that buoys our underwater dreams and explorations.

Today might be a forgettable day, for nothing momentous or calamitous has happened, or is likely to. But today, this day, still matters, for it is also representative of that which we might treasure in recollection, in those rare moments of reflective tranquility, for the rest of our lives.

— Andy Jones is a lecturer with the University Writing Program and academic associate director of Academic Technology Services at UC Davis.



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