By: Emma Johnston
“I Should have stayed home” – I wailed to my husband last Thursday night as I flopped onto the couch, a generously poured glass of wine in my hand.
On Thursdays I take my kids swimming. They have swimming lessons once a week, but they don’t find these all that enjoyable, so I had promised that once they all passed their next level they wouldn’t have to do swimming lessons any longer. In an attempt to bolster their skill faster, my children had cunningly swung a deal that I would take them for ‘extra’ lessons once a week. Thursdays are our day. I load my three kids into the car and we head into the Gretzky Centre for an hour and a half of swimming. We practice our strokes and treading water and star floats – the kids are doing fabulously and most weeks I look forward to jumping into the pool with them.
But this past week – I wanted to stay home. I’d had a long day, I’d had some major stressors I had to deal with and I was tired. I tried to get out of it, but they were so excited and love swimming so much, that I packed our bag and resigned myself to a night in the pool.
This was the wrong choice – I should have stayed home.
It started with my swimsuit.
I pulled my swimsuit out of the bag to change and realized with dismay that the swimsuit I’d packed was one that I kept for emergencies and home use and NOT one I would ever wear in public. This far from flattering piece of swimwear sagged in the front and in the back. It had long worn thin and generously allowed for every bulge, lump and bump to reveal itself to the poor, unsuspecting crowd. With horror I glanced in the mirror and my worst imaginings stared right back at me. With a quick hustle I herded my children past the glass and into the pool. On any other night the ‘do it anyway’ attitude is a good thing, but that night – I should have just gone home!
The pool deck itself was teeming. It appeared to me that most of Brantford had also decided to go swimming this Thursday and had all huddled and grouped themselves into the pool where we wanted to swim. The place was packed wall to wall with people.
My children and I found a free space in the centre of the pool, a family played basketball to our left, swim tests were taking place to our right, and a lovely little family with their toddler swam behind us, but we claimed our spot and we aimed to make the most of it! Once in, we had fun.
Each of my kids conquered another one of their goals. We jumped and splashed and raced down the length of the pool. I was starting to think that it was good I’d come. That I was glad I’d pushed through my desire to stay home. I was playing with my kids and laughing with them and clapping at their accomplishments. I thought it was shaping up to be a great night! I was wrong.
It was then, just as I was cheering up and laughing and having fun, that it happened. In a split second I watched my daughter gulp down a giant mouthful of water after one of her overzealous jumps. I picked her up as she spluttered water and clung around my neck. She looked at me -eyes bulging and began to gag. I knew immediately that she was going to vomit. I looked for the closest edge of the pool, begging her to not throw up, I swam across as fast as I could to the edge, dragging my boys behind me.
As I threw her onto the pool deck she began to vomit. I tried to catch some of it to stop it going into the pool, but instead it just ended up landing all down the front of my very saggy swimsuit. I got the boys out of the pool behind me as my daughter continued to bring up her dinner. It landed down the front of her and onto our feet and all across the deck. Our little group of four stood, soaking wet, covered in my daughter’s vomit and staring into the overcrowded swimming pool.
Knowing I had to tell somebody I shuffled our group over to the handsome, 23- year- old
life guard who stood on duty at the edge of the pool. There, I remorsefully explained the situation while dying of embarrassment. He nodded, called over 3 more young men who crowded around our vomit-soaked edge of the pool and the decision was made to evacuate. He blew his whistle and announced to a pool filled with dozens of people – that our little family had contaminated the pool and they all had to evacuate. Every person at the pool turned and looked at me! Covered in puke, sagging swimsuit, a crying daughter – then, one by one they climbed out of the pool and slowly walked by our little family, gawking at the mess that we were. The stares and glares were palpable. I apologized one by one as the basketball playing family began to cry that their game was ruined. The toddler parents rushed to shower off their little angel so he didn’t get sick. The kids who were doing their swimming test grumbled that now they’d have to wait even longer to go down the slide. I apologized to each of them, one by one as they climbed out of the pool in front of us.
The head life guard saw the commotion and jogged over to our side of the pool, her perky pony tale swinging importantly, she stood and looked down at us. My daughter was sobbing and clinging to my legs, my boys, mortified were doing their best to comfort her. I offered to clean up my daughter’s mess, but the head lifeguard looked at me with all the distain of a woman whose evening had been ruined and shook her head. “No,” she said. “You need to shower and go home!”
She was right. There was nothing I could do. Our family had managed to contaminate the entire pool and ruin the night of multiple families – we really should have stayed home!
As I rinsed off my children, got them changed and brought us all home, I felt embarrassed and ashamed. Everyone knew and saw what we had done. Everyone had taken a good long stare at the woman wearing the floppy bathing suit, covered in vomit with the crying children. No one had said “it’s okay, these things happen.” No one said, “don’t worry” – nope, we’d wrecked the night for everybody!
As I sat at home on the couch afterward, sulkily drinking my glass of Cab. Sauv. And resolving to find an alternative swimming pool for future use, I tried to think of the lesson I’d learned from all this. Tried hard to see the silver lining, the glimmer of shining humanity in the midst of embarrassment. But all I could think was – I really should have stayed home!