I was a magnificent sight to behold.
You should have seen me: svelte and toned, my body was in the best shape it had ever been in. All those hours and weeks of dogged determination and completing my Insanity program had paid off. My breasts and buttocks sat sumptuously in my high-cut, bright yellow swimming suit, stubbornly defying gravity. Pamela Anderson had absolutely NOTHING on me.
I had just got done swimming 8 laps across the pool and hoisted my perfect body out of the water. My neighbor Keisha watched me enviously, shrouded with an oversized t-shirt, floppy straw hat and wide-rimmed shades. I struck up a conversation with her about natural hair. I have been natural for years now, and she was a recent convert.
“Girl, I just keep it short,” she confessed. “Natural hair is a lot of work!”
I nodded in agreement.
“It is a lot of work,” I replied, “but it’s worth it for days like this. You just can’t hop in and out of the pool when you have a perm.”
It was Memorial Day, and the family was spending the day by the pool before my husband worked his magic on the grill. I had spent the larger part of the afternoon trying to show the girls how to swim, and Aya was the only one putting in real effort. She enthusiastically dove under the water head first and flapped her arms and legs like a wayward crayfish. She barely moved five inches, but at least she was trying…which was much more than I could say for her elder sister. Nadjah refused to get her face wet at all.
“If you’re not willing to get your hair wet, then don’t waste my time asking me to teach you how to swim!” I barked.
She smarted and replied with a tepid attempt by putting her nose in the water. I snorted and turned my attention back to Keisha, who was also lamenting that after 3 years of swimming lessons, her daughter had still refused to submerge herself completely in the water. As we “mmhmmm’d” our mutual disdain for that failure, my beloved Aya went under the water and didn’t come back up fast enough.
My baby was drowning!
“Oh my God, Marshall! Get her!” I screeched.
The sound of my panicked voice carried over the expanse of the pool and only made Aya panic more. She reached desperately for the inflated tube that was just above her head, but she couldn’t get a grip. Her little beaded head bobbed just below the surface. My baby!
Marshall wasn’t moving fast enough. I sprinted past him and shot into the water like a bullet. With three streamlined strokes, I swam to my struggling child and lifted her out of the water. She clung to my neck, eyes wild and face drenched. I clutched her tightly and set her by the edge of the pool. In the distance, dark clouds from an approaching storm began to gather confirming that it was time for our departure. I couldn’t take being struck by lighting and losing a child to drowning in the same day.
As I led my brood home, I felt like a hero. How fitting and symbolic for the day we were celebrating.
Now – Everything I described to you actually happened – except for the bit about my body. That’s not true. I did 10 minutes of Insanity and gave up months ago. I’m still weighing in at 200+ lbs, and I don’t have a high-cut anything in my wardrobe. My breasts and buttocks took on gravity about 4 years ago and lost – and wretchedly so. They are both sad swinging sacks of their former selves.
And I did save my child’s life – though not quite in the way I described. I leapt into the water feet first – not head first – and my movements were less like an arrow and more reminiscent of a lumbering grizzly bear chasing after and attacking its salmon dinner. I am resolute in my insistence that the intensity of my attempt to rescue my imperiled child is not to be diminished by the execution of that rescue, however poor.
As Marshall and Keisha howled with laughter in the background, Aya grabbed my neck and looked at me with bewildered eyes.
“Why is Daddy laughing?” she chattered.
“I don’t know,” I muttered, carrying her to get a towel.
Keisha was clutching her sides when I got back to the pool chair.
“Girl! I wish I had my camera!” she gasped. “That was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen!”
“She could have saved herself by the time you got to her,” she snickered wickedly. “You should have seen the way you jumped in the pool!”
She could barely finish her sentence. Laughter was choking her. I couldn’t scold my neighbor, so I turned my ire towards Marshall.
“Well…why didn’t you go in the pool after her?”
“You didn’t give me a chance,” he scoffed. “You shot past me before I could react!”
“And it’s a good thing I did,” I said, drying myself off haughtily. “She could have drowned while we waited on you!”
Keisha coughed and cut me off.
“She was in no danger of drowning,” she chortled. “Ooooh! Comedy central!”
“That was like watching Baywatch, wasn’t it?” I smiled.
“Yeah…no,” she breathed. “I was like watching ‘Not Baywatch’.”
Or Blackwatch, we concluded: Overweight Black moms at the pool, just trying to keep their kids safe. It’s not pretty, but it gets the job done. Any mother would have done the same. I think.