I’ve used this picture before but it’s the only one of the creek* I have handy so forgive me for using it again. Also, it has my dad in it so I like it. A few years after this picture was taken, I learned to swim in this creek and when I say “learned to swim”, I mean swimming by my grandmother’s standards and taught by her tried and true, never lost a baby to the water, methods. There are stories of her nudging her children out of a small boat in Mobile Bay to induce swimming. In my case, she used the current and a bend in the creek as a final exam in a class my mother didn’t know I was taking that day. Katherine T. Still was a graceful swimmer and never in any danger of drowning herself due to the fact that she was unsinkable. To this day, I’ve never seen any human being who could float like she could. It was as if she was perched on the surface of the water the way a deity would demonstrate its deityness to non-believers. She barely had any draw at all. On this day, we floated around the bend in the creek together. “The bend” was just a curve in the creek where the water was a little deeper and the current was a little stronger. Little kids didn’t go around the bend without grown-ups because we weren’t strong enough to swim back against the current. We’d always catch a ride with a bigger, stronger swimmer and I figured that would be grandma on this day. I figured wrong. As it turned out, she had a different plan for me. She believed I was strong enough to swim myself back around the bend and before I could try to change her mind, she was gone. Frankly, I don’t remember exactly what I was thinking at the moment. I don’t recall if it was the fear of being stranded or some sort of blind faith in her but I didn’t sit there long before swimming after her. Of course, she was right. I swam myself right back around the bend.
Now, some 40 years later, it’s a known characteristic of my personality to step off into the deep end with little consideration to whether or not I’m actually prepared for it. It works out most of the time. Do an Ironman triathlon on no training? I did that. It hurt, I was slow, but I did it. Need someone to do a presentation to a large group … now? Sure thing. What would you like me to talk about? I hope I don’t stop putting myself in those situations just because I may not have all the experience or training it might seem I’d need to be successful. Don’t get me wrong, I like to be prepared but you never know what you’re really capable of so I tend to err on the side of being able to swim back around the bend on my own even if I’ve never done it before. Thanks grandma.
*the creek is a particular stretch of water with incredibly cold water and a stout current where my family went to swim for as long as I remember and a long time before that. We’d meet there and spend the day playing in the sand and swimming. I’m not sure why we stopped doing that but I sure have fond memories of many days at the creek.