It feels like being in the pool at the Y, in the summers of being a kid - only without the sting of too much chlorine up my nose. That's what this summer feels like.
We took swimming lessons in the summer, and I was never really much of a fan. There were, to my mind, several problems with swimming in the pool at the Y. Chlorine, other people, swimsuits, water that was never warm enough, and the inevitably resulting nasty head cold, for instance. But I remember a very specific thrill that comes when some new skill is tried. Some letting go of the edge of the side gutter, or some opening of the eyes underwater (even now, I want to thump the person who chlorinated the pool at the Hollywood YMCA). I remember the day I dove deep and scraped my nose on the bottom of the pool because I dug deep with my arms and pushed through the water ... but my eyes were closed and the bottom was nearer than I'd thought.
Swim lessons and I were never friends, and I still hate public pools, but I remember that one thrill. I remember what it was to be scared and excited at the same time, and to have the water surround and hold my skinny white body - water miraculously unkilled by that wretched chlorine - chlorine that stayed in my hair and skin for days. The water knew things. Even then, I knew that the water knew things.
It's odd, this summer of 2012. Like the year's almost-palindromic numbers, there's a sense of repeating a pattern, but with a slight hitch. A new stroke of the pen has happened since 2002, and the pattern does not go backwards the same as forwards now.
For one thing, this summer, the Little Kids of all those Christmases of all of those years that have happened in the space of O Holy Night - just the first verse - those Little Kids are now the generation of weddings and new couples and new households ... and we - my brothers and I - now we're the generation of the aunts and uncles who watch and smile and dab at our eyes. Some huge wave has broken across the pool, and taken their little baby hands from the side gutter, and while we heard the glub glub sound of the water at the corner drains, the babies swam off! They've been diving and getting out and shaking themselves off and diving back in again and now the pattern repeats - but they're not babies. The youngest son of my youngest brother is getting married today. Tonight there will be a new Mrs. in the family. This summer of lessons starts now.
Summers used to be like this. I remember this. All at once, in every direction, things that are the same have changed and the pattern that repeats is altered. Life acts like some kind of crazed flowering bush - in a wet and endless spring, budding ... budding ... budding ... and then, POW! All the flowers at once. A family wedding - but not my generation's brides and grooms. This is the wedding of one of the little kids. We'll work on the house this summer, and we'll have another anniversary, and I'll have a birthday, and so will our own youngest son ... and the house and our marriage and my birthdays and our kids - they all hold all the other years inside of them, and so this is the same only different.
It's always the same only different.
The summer is for swimming lessons.