Story by Jennifer Oliver
I observed the man from the comfort of my lawn chair as I sat with other parents in the shade.
“WAY TO GO!” he yelled, clapping and whistling. “GOOD JOB!”
He was shirt-less and sitting at the kiddie pool where his little girl, a toddler, was happily splashing. It was the first day of swimming lessons, and this man was rooting for the kids, who were at the moment learning how to float on their backs in the main pool.
I looked around me. One man with sunglasses had a laptop — in his lap, of course — and was busy scrolling through screens. Three Mexican women conversed in their mother tongue. One pale woman stuck her white-gooed nose in a paperback. A string of other parents and grandparents rooted themselves at picnic tables under steel canopies on the far side of the pool. All of us were quietly watching from the sidelines as our children took instructions from two certified swimming instructors.
“YOU CAN DO IT!” the cheerleading man continued as the kids learned to dunk their heads underwater.
How in the world could this man be so loud? I thought. So obnoxious and pulling attention to himself? Why can’t he be like the rest of us adults and just be quiet?
I would never dream of bringing attention to myself. Growing up, I’ve always had a death-like fear of people staring at me. It wasn’t until my senior year in high school that I mustered the courage to overthrow my fears and take the lead as Daisy Mae. I remembered my Mom wearing a shirt that bragged, “I’m Daisy Mae’s Mom.”
But that was the last time I ever performed solo in front of an audience. Yet here I was at a swimming lesson with my boys, and I couldn’t summon the courage to even cheer them on. I mean, what would the rest of these docile parents think of me? A raving lunatic like this man?
I thought of my husband who told me how much he dreaded the thought of turning into a grown-up, all staid, stiff, complacent, dull…well, pretty much like the ones squatting around the pool in the shade. Motionless and tight-lipped.
Just like me.
“WHOO-HOO!” the man yelled. A deep scar ran from his chest all the way down to disappear in shorts, displacing his belly button. Apparently the man cared little about what folks would think about the way he looked.
“YEAH, CODY! YOU CAN DO IT!”
“Look at that guy,” said the man with the laptop. “Who does that idiot think he is?”
Sighing, I leaned over and said, “That idiot? Well, that idiot happens to be my husband.”
With that, I rose from my lawn chair, ambled over to the kiddie pool, plopped down next to my shirt-less hubby, stuck my lily-white legs into the cool water, and together we cheered on all the kids.