(this is the fourth in a series of posts I'm writing about my Water Babies. you might want to read part one, part two and part three,
James in the pool is the most improbable. Guests watch incredulously his tiny body launching from the deck, arching dragon-fly-like, wings extended back, as he splashes belly-first (every time) and then hangs almost motionless, face-down in a deadman's float for a moment, as mother-eyes watch to see if a panicked rescue is in order...
But no, he's merely taking stock of his domain. He jack-knifes underwater, touching his toes and then straightening out to kick his way to the other side. This child swims a good eight to ten feet without a breath. I hold mine while I watch... just to see... so I know when he's running low, when he's about to have to breathe or drown. He swims one-sided. His right arm takes comically vigorous strokes, while his left plasters to his side, his legs thrashing the water determinedly.
On the longest jaunt-- 20 feet, clear across the pool-- he has to flip to his back to breathe. He waits for a moment, white-knuckling the edge of the deck, grins up at me "Wha wide, Mama?" ("other side?"), then pushes off with his toes, sideways, face down, kick-rightstroke-kick-rightstroke, then swoosh he flips to his back, tiny ohsotiny face floating high in the deep blue water, utterly isolated, utterly serene, calm, self-confident.
A baby island in the deep end.
Kick, kick, kick. Flip under, eyes wide to find the direction, re-orient, float again, kick kick kick to the edge.
He elbows up over the edge, toddler pot belly resting on the deck and arm-over-arm, knees up onto solid ground. But only briefly. This solid ground is not for him. He prefers the world where he is the equal of all, where he is the master of all he sees...