Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Sometimes we do the oddest things.

Every summer in college I worked at a summer resort as a way to pay for school. My parents encouraged this in all of us kids, so we were often in far-flung spots.

When I was 18 I was working in Michigan on the shores of the Lake.The swimming pool was available to staff (and townies who worked at the resort) before it opened to the guests, so usually by 7:30 there was a good crowd. The waitresses were off-shift, the maids were going on, the desk clerks had just changed duty and the yard guys couldn't work yet because we didn't want to wake the guests. Anyway,we had a good 2-3 hours to use the pool.

I'm a strong swimmer, having grown up around artificial water (swimming pools) all my life. That summer several kids were there who'd never been near a lake the size of Michigan or near a pool. They were mainly inner-city kids from Detroit or Milwaukee. One girl, Paulette, was a skinny black girl with a 'fro and a laugh you could hear a mile away. Paulette and I became buddies since we were both waitresses. She was determined to learn to swim, but damned if she didn't just sink like a rock every time she got out of the shallow end.

We all kept an eye on her, of course, and all tried to help her learn to 'inflate' so she'd float (many jokes were flung around about my ample flotation devices, but we won't go into that). So one day there's about 30 kids in the pool and we're cavorting. I hauled out of the pool to the side, looked around ...

no Paulette.

I looked at the spot under the diving board and saw a black shape at the bottom of the pool. I didn't think twice. Literally. I just yelled, "Paulette" and dove in.

She was almost out of air. I arrowed down to her and got next to her. She didn't know what to do. She didn't know how to push off or kick or anything. So I got an arm around her and pushed off the bottom. She, of course, was panicked and almost drowned me by clutching on. I kicked, pushing her ahead of me. I had one hand on her butt and the other on her thigh and I was pushing her up for all I was worth. I really wasn't sure we'd make it. I was starting to take in water, and I'm sure she was, too, because she was getting weak.

Then a couple of other kids dove in and got her arms and dragged her up. A friend got me and hauled me up to the surface. We got Paulette out and turned her over and pumped her, releasing a bunch of pool water. I was able to drag myself out on the ladder and when she could sit up we sat together and had a good cry.

That night we all 'went to town' (the nearest place with streetlights) and went to Sherman's Ice Cream Parlor, where Paulette's townie boyfriend,a HUGE intimidating black guy, bought me an ice cream sundae and kept hugging her like a big old teddy bear. It was great.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

ah JL. This is such a nice story. I want Donna to adopt me into her large family, you to go swimming with me, and Judi to take over when a crisis happens. I'm sure Lynne and Angela have great skills too that I could benefit from, if I had half a brain I could remember the things they'd posted through our friendship. Dang. Maybe I need a brain recharge. Who does that? Maggie