Thursday, June 25, 2015

On Your Marks, Get Set... Summer!

Summer may have "officially" started on Sunday, but here at THG HQ we got a jump on things a day early by bringing life in what feels like one of many full circles my wife and I will be facing over the years.

Despite school being out and summer vacation in full swing we were rudely awakened by the sound of a 6 am alarm clock and the site of bleary-eyed parents and one excited child getting ready for those dreaded words: swim meet.

I have not attended a swim meet since I was 17 years old and coming to the end of a once moderately illustrious but by then pretty run of the mill swimming career. Unlike most of my pals who got better with age and practice, I peaked as a swimmer around the age of 9, setting a short-lived state record and winning a couple medals in championship meets. (That's me at right in my 1978 swim team photo, age 11.)

By the age of 10 I had already tired of the morning practices and teammates who thought they were bound for the Olympics, but were pretty much no better than the second or third best swimmer in our county.

I'd also discovered tennis but quickly realized that early morning swim team practices had an unexpected benefit... my buddy Ed and I had first crack at the court reservation forms that were posted in the club's guard shack. And so, swim team became an ends to a means, plus it had the added benefit of getting me out of the house early for the first six weeks or so of the summer.

In retrospect I probably should have sucked it up that one last year when I was 18 and maxed out my eligibility. But when my folks finally gave me the choice of whether or not to swim I picked "not" and chose a job in a warehouse over morning swim meets, a coach I hated and teammates I largely couldn't stand.

Good times, good times.

So you can probably understand why I wasn't jumping for joy when we drove past the swim club one night on our way to dance class (or was it a lacrosse game?) and my daughter asked, "Dad, why are those people going in to the pool?"

"Oh, tonight's sign up night for the swim and dive team," I said, unenthusiastically.

"Are they going to have another sign up night?," she piped up from the back seat.

Fear gripped my spine as I registered the enthusiasm in her voice. "Um, no... but you can sign up till the start of the season. Why? Did you, uh", insert shudder, "want to join?"

I had already figured that swim team was off the table. We'd had some discussions about it as a family over dinner prep during the previous months and I figured that my lack of enthusiasm and ramblings about "time commitment" and "a lot of hard work" had put the kibosh on the subject.

Fast forward a few weeks and you can see that I was wrong. Not only was Ry enthusiastically chowing down on a pre-race breakfast but she had already endured a week of cold and rainy after school practices that probably would have broken a weaker swimming novice. Instead, she tackled it all with the same sunny disposition and smiling face that accompanied pretty much every endeavor she faced.

It's moments like this where I wonder where the hell she gets it from.

And so, there we were, packing up snacks and drinks, reading material and work for the trek to our opening meet, forty-five minutes from home.

Did I mention I'd spent the last two days dealing with a stomach bug that sent everything I ate or drank through me in about fifteen minutes?

So there I was on a overcast Saturday morning, tentatively – and I do mean "tentatively" – sipping coffee, hoping I wouldn't need to make more pit stops than a NASCAR driver as we headed to a battle with The Stingrays.

Five hours and many glances to the heavens later – that's where I envisioned my dear, departed, long-suffering swim team parents looking down with a mix of pride and laughter – the meet was over and though the team had lost Ry won her first heat ever and completed both events without being disqualified.

Clutching her "Heat Winner" ribbon like an Olympic medal, she crashed out in the back seat as we drove home. Despite my original lack of enthusiasm at the prospect of trading in my Lax Dad hat for a Swim Taxi bumper sticker, I couldn't hide my pride in our little swimmer.

Looks like the Summer of 2015 is off to a good start. – Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor (aka The Hungover Gourmet) is a proud parent, pop culture junkie and food/drink lover. You can follow his exploits and eats here at the blog as well as on Twitter and Facebook. Back issues of the award-winning THG zine are available from the webstore.

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