Friday, 26 December 2008

Walking on Water No Matter How Stupid it Looks...

Sundays as a kid were always superb.

Mass was a very short affair (phew!!) and afterwards we were all bunched in the car and taken swimming at the local sports club (bonus lunch too when lucky!)….when money was tight we had to eat at home (then wait 20 minutes for the food to “reach the stomach” to avoid barfing in the water).

We would race to change in record time and my mum swathed us all with a gob of Vaseline making us look like shiny brown blobs jumping into the water with glee….

All my siblings could swim like aces except me….I used to like belly flopping at the club’s baby pool to maximize the splash effect to those (idiots I thought) who were not in their bathing suits or ready to face the risk of getting wet at the poolside…

My mother, who believed any water more than a bath tub was lethal never got near the pool. She sat under the umbrella chairs propped her feet up on another chair and sipped on tomato juice on the rocks and browsed a romance novel or those weekly women magazines sometimes even chatting up my friends mummies….

My dad would routinely pop in and surprise us “to inspect our swimming skills” and treat us to red Schweppes and a packet of crisps… (by the way, if we broke that 20 minute rule to wait for the food to “reach the stomach” the puke in the pool was a horribly gross pale pink making all the swimmers scamper out of the water in total disgust….euuuuuuwwww you didn’t want to see pale pink puke floating in a pool)..

I kept pissing my dad off because of my lack of swimming skills…I had been doing the whole swimming thing since I was like two and he felt it a waste of money that I opted to empty the baby pool and upset guests by drenching them. So one day my dad got radical and yanked me out of the baby pool saying that it was a high time I learnt how to swim in the big pool.

To the surprise of everyone my dad took me to the big pool and threw me right in the middle before anyone could say KARUMANZIRA….

There was a collective sigh followed by horrified screams from all quarters….

It was like slow motion and surreal…am telling you my eyes were open as my body made impact with the water and as gravity pushed me down to the bottom …my feet floundered looking for the floor of the pool and God it was soooo deep…

I wondered for a second if I was going to die. Then I floated back up and grasped for air. I saw my dad with that ka-broom thingie for cleaning the pool shouting at me to swim and grab onto it. Almost everyone was at the edge of the pool hysterical and my dad kept telling them to back off.

So there I was like 5 years old crying and drinking all the pool’s water wondering why my dad hated me. Then he reached out with the broom inches away from me… I lunged to grab it and when I almost got it…he pulled it back away a bit…I lunged again to reach for it and he pulled it back again. …then I realized he was deliberately pushing my life link away from me and I felt like I needed to survive that ordeal to strangle him with my bare hands…I lunged again reaching for the bloody broom and he ….yes….pulled it back away from me!

What a mean horrible man….

My eyes never lost contact with that broom thingie and before I knew it I had done a half width and when I reached close to the edge my dad grabbed me and pulled me out. The bystanders at the poolside burst with applause once they realized that I actually swam on my own across the pool….

But I was pissed …crying bloody murder…. I hit his face like 20 times hating him for throwing me in the big pool. He just held onto me not letting go…letting me vent my anger. My mum tried to get me away from him (by the way I hear she sulked at him for like two weeks for pulling that stunt) but my dad refused to let me go.

Exhaustion hit and I rest my head on his chest with dry wracking sobs. He took me to sit at the table and just continued to hold me in his arms. When I calmed down, my dad told me matter of fact as he cleaned up my gooey face that even though he kinda pissed me off at least he proved to everyone that I could swim.

He told me I had no excuse to ever go to the baby pool again since I managed to swim across the big pool. That was when it really sank in that I could swim…well I could fight not to drown at the very least which I think is technically the same thing– lol…

Friends of the family all came to our table with various goodies from the pool bar…chocolates and peanuts more Schweppes congratulating me on the brave thing I did.

In those days I needed very little to boost my ego…in minutes I was stupid enough to think I was ready to go back to the big pool to give a shot at swimming a full length right up to the deep end….

My sister and brothers capitalized on my vanity for the next couple of Sundays and taught me the strokes in grueling training sessions. They never cut me slack and never let me chicken out on anything. I soon caught up with their skills and held my own in the pool.

When my dad came again for “inspection” we always had some new snazzy swim skill to show off to him and swimming became a real joy for us all.

So one day recently I asked him how he knew I would not drown that day when he threw me in the water…

“Let me admit now Chiqy that I didn’t know whether you would manage in the big pool. Of course if you didn’t come back up I would have jumped in shoes and all and gotten you out…. but when you lunged out the first time to reach for the broom I realized that you could do it and I pushed you into going all the way. Sometimes you don’t know the potential you have until someone pushes you to the very edge. Sometimes it takes a leap of faith to get us all started.”


It never occurred to me all these years that he didn’t know whether I would come back up in that water.

Yeah that was faith and faith can seem real stupid sometimes….but the results were totally worth it!

I still have vivid memories of struggling to get my legs on some solid ground that day and just trying to stay afloat to breathe…

But that’s how life is sometimes isn’t it?


wetwool said...


You write vizuri. Today I found a gem. I am trying to recall my own swimming nightmares but the years with a format 19XX look so distant now.

Tell me, is it true that back then they used a special chemical in the water and you could tell when the lazy kids could not be bothered to go to the changing rooms:-)

Sikiliza said...

lol - yes there was a chemical that turned red i think if you peed in the water...hahaha