MY HIGH SCHOOL didn’t have a swim team. We didn’t have a pool. We had a few hundred students in a single-story building just up the hill from the junior high, which was just up the hill from the elementary. A few miles away were the factories (GM, AK Steel) and farmland. I had a classmate who drove his tractor the last day of senior year (it took him two hours). We had a Biblically-successful boys basketball team who had come from behind, the underdogs, to win a state championship. The road to the high school was officially renamed ‘89 Championship Drive in their honor. Our mascot was the Minuteman. The girls’ teams were called the Lady Minutemen. We didn’t have a swim team.
Still, I swam, mostly at various public pools, every summer day of my childhood. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, we would leave after breakfast, bags packed with towels, my mother’s novels. We would stay at the pool until late afternoon, having eaten lunch there, hot dogs or hamburgers, pale half-done French fries in a paper tray. Only in the car would exhaustion hit. I would feel the sun then too, prickling my arms and the back of my neck. There is nothing quite like the exertion of swimming, a kind of peaceful burn, my muscles loosening as I leaned into the seat, the fabric damp from my suit.
What was swimming about then?