Her shrieks were maddening. Out of context a passerby listening might think we were drowning her. Fortunately with all the other parents, babies and children around us in the pool with swimming instructors instructing, we were in safe company.
Except that Beatrice hated it. Every single minute of it. The swimming instructors did their best to console her, as did we, each of us getting in the pool to hold her and guide her.
Yet she cried and howled and thrashed and wanted nothing to do with immersing any further in the warm pool water, especially when her head hit it. Thankfully six-month-old Bea wasn't the only crying baby and toddler being taught the fundamentals of floating and paddling in the water.
We tried to comfort her and acclimate her, but she was disdainfully vocal, if not the loudest. We only went a few times to those swimming lessons way back then. In the years since there have been more swimming lessons with more painfully visceral results, sometimes to the point of making herself sick. Even in the bathtub, she still hated putting her head under the water.
All because she was scared to death that she'd sink.
When she could articulate how she felt, that's what she expressed over and over again. Even today after finally being comfortable in the water, learning how to swim and submersing her head, she's still worried about sinking.
Conversely her younger sister Bryce is not only unafraid to put her head under water, we have to temper her desire to dive in head first nearly and literally every single time. Bryce has never really had a problem with wanting to swim, just the normal fear of going under the first time. Her shrieks are joyous and infectious when she's in the pool.
All because she eats "sink" for breakfast.
The dichotomous sister swimmers are now water-ready anywhere we go and look forward to it all. They are my lifetime metaphors personified -- to be deathly afraid of what could happen next or to boldly go with whatever happens next. What comes next for them is to learn how to manage the poles and all the in-between. And us grown ups know how much in-between there is.
"Can we go swimming at Auntie Kristen's World?" the girls asked when we told them we were going to visit my sister again to see how she's doing and to help where we can.
They ask if my sister's house was an amusement park complete with swimming pool, just like when we take the girls to Disneyland and go swimming in the middle of the day to break up the park trekking. Damn, if only that were the case. My sister is now awake and doing better, although there's a long way to go with her "in between" and the healing that will hopefully come.
Of course we don't share everything with the girls at this age, but they do know she's sick and that she needs the family's help. They're already packing their stuffed animals while pretending to talk with them:
"We're going to Auntie Kristen's again."
"Awe, but why?"
"Because she needs our help again."
"Okay, let's go help her then."
"Yes, and then we'll all go swimming!"
"We can't wait!"
And so dive in we do.