When I was about five years old, some family friends took me and my three-year-old sister off my parent’s hands for an afternoon of fun, to frolic beside the pool at the hotel where they were staying. I recall that it was a beautiful, perfect, sunny day: the outdoor pool looked enormous to me but I expect that if I could see it today, I would discover it was really quite small. There was a wide set of stairs leading down into the shallow end and I spent long, pleasant minutes tentatively edging my way down to the floor of the pool. There were a number of other families there and, unable to swim myself, I watched the older kids diving off the board and swimming in the deep end with a great deal of longing.
Contrary to how they portray it in the movies, a drowning person is very quiet.
At some point, I made it to the floor of pool and, emboldened by the bigger kids just a few feet away, took a step out. It didn’t take me long to realise that I had made a mistake: the water came up to just under my eyes: I could see, but I could not breathe. There are moments in our lives that, no matter what our age, we remember with cinematic clarity. I recall looking up and seeing the nice lady who had brought me to the pool walking past on the deck, head up and gazing at something in the distance, perhaps eight feet away. I recall jumping up to take a breath, intending to call out to her, but there wasn’t time for me to utter a word before my mouth and my nose were under water again. I do not recall how many times I jumped; and then sank back under the water; desperate to make a sound, before it occurred to me that no one was going to help me.
I was five years old and I was on my own.
I have always been fairly resourceful, and I do wonder sometimes, if my resourcefulness was not born that day. It finally occurred to me that no one was going to save me, because no one knew I needed help. Somehow, I had become utterly invisible. Instead of jumping to breathe and trying to call out, I decided to use my energy to jump toward the edge of the pool. It took awhile, but I recall the relief I felt as the edge of the pool drew ever closer; as I realised that I might be able to save myself. I do not recall a thing after grasping the edge, but knowing me, I expect I burst into tears and then cried hysterically until they took me home.
I know they must have felt absolutely awful. I know it probably traumatised them even more than it traumatised me. I have never felt any anger toward these kind folks who just wanted to give my parents a break and enjoy the company of two little girls for the day.
But I realise, with hindsight, that trust has never come easily to me since that terrifying moment when I realised that I was on my own in that pool. Over fifty years later, and with a great many more hurtful and terrifying memories under my belt, it takes me a great deal of time to give my full, complete and utter trust to anyone. I have always been a hopeful person, so I do enter any relationship with the intent to trust. But after all these years, I could name the people I would absolutely trust with my life on only a very few fingers.
I guess some experiences just have a way of altering your perception of the world.
Patti Moore Wilson/© wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com