It was Saturday.
With thirty six hours to go before the professor returned to Calgary, and no school or previously scheduled activities to break up the day, I knew I had to do something. Something to get the boys out of the house. Something to rid them of excess energy. Something to maintain a shred of sanity.
So I decided to take the boys……swimming.
If anyone had told me earlier in the week ‘you’re going to take your boys swimming on Saturday,’ I would have called them a fool. Because I don’t wear a bathing suit in the pseudo-hot summer months, much less in December, in front of hundreds of strangers. And I dislike public swimming. And the thought of managing three non-swimming boys in such a setting gives me heart palpitations.
But apparently I was desperate and, shortly after 2, wearing swimsuits under our clothes, I drove my 3xy’s to the pool. ‘What direction is the pool?’ the Gort wanted to know before I’d made it out of our neighborhood. ‘It’s south,’ I replied. ‘So why are you going north?’ he demanded, all omniscient-like, as if he’d stumbled upon my not-so-secret Hansel and Gretel-esque ploy to lead them into the woods with breadcrumbs.
‘We are going south,’ I sighed, ‘north is that [opposite] way. If we’d been driving our minivan, you would have seen that we’re driving south.’
[Because the minivan had a handy display that featured both temperature and direction. Sniff.]
‘Well how many more minutes,’ the very-eager Hen asked. ‘I don’t know, maybe twenty?’ And he proceeded to watch the clock like a hawk. ‘It’s 2.33. It’s 2.39.’
Yes, I know.
‘Do you know where the pool is?’ the Hen worried out loud, as I drove – confidently – towards the Southland Leisure Centre. ‘Yes she does,’ the Gort spoke on my behalf, ‘she’s been there like two times.’
More like ten, but whatever.
Finally we arrived at my personal Hades and I began the arduous task of finding a parking spot. There were none. I couldn’t imagine it was a good sign that I had to drive around the parking lot three times before finding a place to park my car.
And then we were off. The boys were thrilled. There was no line-up of other insane people waiting to pay to wear their kids out for an hour. ‘How are you doing today?’ the friendly cashier asked. ‘Well, it’s a Saturday and I’m at the pool with three boys,’ I answered not-so-cryptically. ‘So, great?’
I paid the admission and he gave the Gort and I a purple smiley-face wristband. ‘The lockers take quarters,’ he reminded. And I, person who almost never carries any cash, stared back in horror. ‘Here you go,’ and he handed me two quarters. Which was very kind but also funny, since the last time I’d brought the Gort to his gymnastics class, I’d given a stranger two quarters for said lockers.
We split up at the changing rooms which always makes me a bit nervous, but bringing an eight year old boy into a female change room would be a faux pas. So I sent the Gort and the Hen to the men’s room together, and Percy and I made our way through the women’s room.
The three year old had been worrying aloud for the last ten minutes about the shower he would have to take. ‘Do I have to take a shower? Do I have to take a shower? I don’t want to take a shower!!!!!’
We arrived at the dreaded showers, so I turned one on and stood under it for a few seconds to prove it wasn’t fatal. But Percy wasn’t convinced [read: he was about to scream bloody murder] so I picked him up and held him under the warm shower. And, save complaining because ‘my (swimshirt) sleeve is wet’, it was going fairly well. And then I heard someone say ‘it’s the Johnsons!’
I’m standing in a shower wearing a bathing suit holding a child (with wet sleeves!) and there, an arms length away from me, is someone I know?!
I sighed before confessing, ‘This may be the stupidest thing I’ve ever done, bringing three boys here by myself.’ And my friend’s eyes grew big, ‘You’re here by yourself?!’ and I explained about the professor being in Barcelona and then she invited me over for dinner. [Yes!] After the wading around the pool with three non-swimmers bit. [Oh.]
For an hour and forty five minutes we waded, the Gort slid down the orange slide, we
endured enjoyed the every-fifteen-minutes waves rolling towards us from the corner of the pool. Percy played with a girl in the baby pool and sat, perhaps, a little too close to her [stranger] father. The Hen, who told me the other day he’d been embarrassed in gym class when he had to dribble a ball and his classmates ‘looked’ at him, danced in the waves as if there weren’t hundreds of strangers right there. And the Gort, who was made fun of for wearing a lifejacket, developed a love for the scary orange slide.
On the way to our friends’ house, I stopped at Starbucks for a coffee. ‘Can you get us a hot chocolate?’ the backseat begged. ‘No,’ I declined, ‘I just took you to the pool – that was your treat.’
‘But you got to go too, why do you get a treat?!’
I thought about standing in the shallow wave pool. On my knees. I had a flashback to Percy clinging to my back with his arms wrapped tightly around my throat, whilst I held the Hen with my arms as the not-inconsiderable waves jostled us.
And then I walked inside Starbucks and ordered a drink.