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With Gill home, I felt training season had officially begun. Olympic swimming, that is. Sure, I’d been swimming for a good two months by the time she showed up, but as we shuffled over to the pool, both in white terry cloth robes to ward off the after-swim chill,  our mother-daughter trek meant that The Team was back in full swing. We have been doing this for five summers.

Now, to the casual observer, we’re not much. An old lady and a somewhat crippled younger one off for a flap in the neighbourhood pool. But to the trained eye, we’re the picture of competitiveness, in complete control of our environment, ready to mow down anyone foolish enough to get in our way. Splashy Lady and Bad Stroke Thrasher, you know who you are.

The truly professional swimmer trains for endurance swims. We also train…the lifeguards. It has taken five years, but they now know which lanes are OURS and are co-conspirators in our plot to rid the pool of other swimmers. It happened once this summer that someone beat me to the pool and claimed MY lane, the outer lane. As The Queen would say, “We were not amused.”

To which Gill retorted, “Oh, so now you’re The Queen of The Pool?”

“Actually, yes. I think you’ll find the guards generally keep my lane clear and what they can’t do, I manage with my frightening glare directly at any kids who dare jump in on me where I’m doing lengths. I have a real stink eye. Makes them cringe. I believe they view me as the Loch Ness monster come alive in the local pool.”

This summer we have become more compulsive than usual about swimming. Many days, we swim twice. There are specific times set aside — mornings for lessons, afternoon and evening for open swim. Three mornings a week, early swim is offered. Gill latched on to this one for the first time. Other summers, it was always:”That’s too early, Ma. I can’t possibly function before 8.” And I would wander off by myself, the old lady, full of ‘piss and vinegar’ first thing in the morning. Thirty lengths later, I’d be back as Gill finished her first coffee, hunched over her laptop at the kitchen table.

This year, since she is now gainfully employed, she is accustomed to getting up with the birds to get to her office and so decided to join me for early morning swim.

“What time does it start?” she asked me.

“7:45,” I answered. “But I go at 7:35 so I can get a few extra minutes in.”

“Don’t the lifeguards object?”

“Not any more! When I began getting there before they did, they felt guilty and began showing up earlier. I mean, it’s embarrassing when the swimmers  have set up camp outside the gate. Actually, I think it was the time they caught me climbing the chain link fence to get in that made them rethink things.”

“I can see how that might have motivated them. How long does swimming last?”

“Technically, until 8:15. But I swim until 8:30. Lessons for the kids don’t start til then, so nobody needs the pool…except me.”

“You’re just a regular little ‘flaunt the rules’ dynamo, aren’t you?”

“Well, I view the schedule as suggested guidelines more than actual rules. At my age, there’s no time to waste. I could be dead before the next swim.”

“Well, let’s go, then. Good thing they have the rule about having a shower before entering the pool. Saves me showering here. Efficiency, that’s what we like.”

“You shower. I don’t care for showers.”

“But you’re supposed to have one! They have a big sign about public health rules.”

“Again, dear, it’s all in the interpretation…I just had a lovely bath, so I’m clean. That’s all they care about. I’ll just go upstairs and get my things and we can go.”

Minutes passed. “Ma! I’m down here waiting for you. What’s the delay? Other people will beat us to the pool. I thought you said you wanted to get there early!”

I yelled down:”Don’t get your knickers in a knot. I’m just putting on my earrings.”

“Earrings? This isn’t Beverly Hills. Why do you need earrings to go swimming?”

“Cause my makeup would look ridiculous without them.”

“No argument there. I can’t believe it. Lake Ontario marathon swimmers need a boat, crew, liquid nourishment, emergency medical equipment, and YOU need makeup and earrings! At 8 in the morning!”

“And the hat. You forgot the floppy hat!” I yelled.

“Lash me with a soggy noodle! I did too forget the hat. And the Jackie O. sunglasses.”

“At least I let the guards know last night what tunes I’d like today. My favourite is the Oldies/Mouldies radio station…99.5. Makes the lengths ever so much more interesting.”

With all of Gill’s criticism about my style and pool attire, I still managed to up my lengths this year. I now do at least 40 per day…often as many as 60. Problem is, all the guards are retiring this summer and moving on to Real Jobs. I’m going to have to get a jump on training the new crew before Gill arrives home for next summer’s follies. Perhaps, as a gesture of goodwill, and not to scare them too much the first day, I won’t wear the earrings and floppy hat…just the sunglasses and full makeup. Who ever said I can’t be flexible?

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