I was swimming in the heated, sea water infinity pool at the Grand-Hotel du Cap-Ferrat, looking out across the Mediterranean Sea. There was pink dye in my hair so I had rolled it on top of my head and was swimming with sunglasses on my nose. Breaststroke, quite fast (if I say so myself), despite the hair and sunglasses. As I moved through the water, I considered the ways in which I did not belong in the heated, sea water infinity pool at the Grand-Hotel du Cap-Ferrat. (Mainly, that I could not afford a room because rather than being a wealthy socialite or Hollywood A-lister I am a single mother from Reading with a hole in my roof. If I could afford a night at the Grand-Hotel du Cap-Ferrat I should probably use the money to fix the hole in my roof but I would be more likely to spend it on a night in the hotel to swim, pink hair atop my head, in this glorious pool once more.)
As I swam, mindful of not wetting my hair, I was reminded of the most regal, leisurely swimmer I know. My mother is not really a swimmer. She is a mummy paddler. A lady wader. A bathing mater. She moves through the water at a pace so slow the movement is indecipherable, creating barely a ripple with her calm, mummy paddle strokes. Most people swim horizontally, or somewhere close to it, but not my mum, she swims standing up, almost, the tips of her hair touching the surface, her chin tilted upward to avoid the cool surface of the pool. Her eyes barely glance downward, as if should they slip, her head may plunge into the dangerous depths beneath. She does not tread water, she does not make strokes that cut through the pool, she calmly mummy paddles her way, from one side to the other, ever onwards, head high.
I was thinking, as I swam under the warm haze of French Riviera sunshine, that the way my mother swims is quite representative of the way she does everything in this life. She steps into the pool although she is not a strong swimmer, although the pool is a place many consider dangerous. She swims, ever onward, with a quiet, calm strength, head held high and an assurance that she will reach the other end. She shares this quiet confidence with others. It is infectious. She does not look down.
I thought about the way my mother swims and I felt grateful, as my hands cut through the water and I completed another length alongside the wealthy patron enjoying a private coaching session, that while my mother didn’t teach me to swim (I adopt a much more horizontal approach to the sport), she taught me how to move through water. To keep my head up and keep moving until I reach the end.
I love the way my mother swims.
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Homepage featured image: by Stefano Zocca