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They were early mornings when my Dad crammed us kids into the old Holden station wagon. I was always the last kid to get into the car claiming that, at the last minute, I had to go to the toilet. This way, I would get the seat next to the window so that I could drift off and gaze in non-wonderment at the fibro landscape which would pass by.

On arriving at the baths on an early week day morning, my Dad would encourage us to swim laps in the big pool, where earlier, the water had been hard pushed by the very early morning trainers doing their routine daily work outs.

It felt quite daunting diving into the deeper end to commence my fifty metre swims. I had not mastered my swimming style at that stage and, as a result, felt like a bit of a phony. Nevertheless, I would dive into the deep, light blue water aware of aligning my lanky limbs amid the black, sloping lines way beneath. At first, submerging myself into the water I would almost fret with not being able to reach the surface. Underneath the water my infant legs would tend to dog paddle so as to clamber to the top, then I would assume that I was graciously forming a freestyle swimming motion with my upper body leading the mode, my lower body following in disarray. I would duplicate my older siblings by looking at the clock adjacent to the pool to examine my time when I reached the end. I wasn’t as rapid as them.

I felt a little uneasy about all this activity. It was normal in our family to be competitive in all sporting pursuits.

Yet, at times, I found these aquatic trials lacked spontaneity and were events which my other young school friends were not enduring. I kept it hidden from them.

I couldn’t wait for the first couple of laps of the Olympic size pool to be over, so I could drift off in the shallow end – I remember it being four feet deep. There, I would hang my arms over the concrete deck of the pool and lay with my head back to pretend that I was indeed, a mermaid having a well earned rest after much night time activity

My older sister would soon break this vision and test my physical being to barbaric underwater swimming races. This meant that I would be required to hold my breath and swim at the bottom of the water until my brain nearly exploded. My record for this was about twenty three metres. Her feats were far more impressive. After this activity, my sister and I would notice my brothers in the diving pool, where the bottom of the pool seemed endless. I knew that if ever my toes were to touch the bottom of the diving pool that I would never return.

My brother would gracefully dive from the springboard tower, way up high, to which I tried to imitate. Unfortunately, my head would hit the water before my arms and I would feel as if I had split my skull open, only to find, upon reaching the surface, that my head was not bleeding and my older siblings would not have noticed anyway They were busy perfecting their own performances with views to Olympic futures.

I decided it was best to stick with the lower springboards to practice my technique. I would, with every three turns, attempt a serious dive, hoping to resemble those I had witnessed on the sports channel. We would judge one another’s dives out of points to ten. When I was reaching the surface of the water, ready and willing for a near nine points, I was disappointed that my critics had given me far less. I would be informed that my legs were not together and that my body was not straight. I would, therefore, resort to fooling around, begging for their attention as I yelled out television personality names and there would be laughs, and then they would join in on my game. This would put us in stitches, until the loud roar from my Dad would have us searching for our coloured towels and climbing into the family car.

Dripping wet, we would arrive home with towels around our young bodies where we would devour as much Weet-bix as our taut stomachs could take. Two of my siblings preferred their Weet-bix with warm milk. One of our siblings would cry if he did not have his blue plate. I would just eat from the household’s blue and white china.

Mum would pour eye drops into my light, chlorine-infested eyes after showering whilst at the same time, combing my hair and tying in a red ribbon. We would then, all fresh from our Palmolive soap and shampoo, collect our lunches in brown paper bags and race each other to school, three streets away. It was usual for other kids in our neighbourhood who went to our local school, to join us at the corner of our street or at our front gate. These other kids would still have sleep in their eyes and coins jangling in their pockets for a lunch order. I knew that they had just got out of bed, where the kids in our family had been up for at least two hours before them swimming like fish – whilst they were probably dreaming of chocolate birthday cakes.



The following comments are for "Reaching the Surface"
by Hagerina

The plight o the youngest...
A pain I know all too well. Actually, my family was never particularly sport-orientated, but I understand the sibling competition thing going on here. I also liked the Australian references (Weetbix and Palmolive).
It's a nice enough piece of nostalgia, but I don't really get an opinion from it. You seem to remember this with fond memories, but from what I can tell you were left feeling inadequate and isolated. Mixed messages like this make it kind of dull.
The writing is not outstanding. I might just be being snobby, but I thought it was a little clinical. Like your trying to write in a particular style, but you can't quite get it.
Also, bits of the text read awkwardly. The occasional 'to' where 'in' would have been appropriate ("My older sister would soon break this vision and test my physical being to barbaric underwater swimming races") and the superfluous 'to' ("My brother would gracefully dive from the springboard tower, way up high, to which I tried to imitate") make this writing difficult. It lacks eloquence.
I liked the description of the adult arms and the infantile legs; a fitting analogy for adolesence, perhaps. It's not a bad piece, it's just plain.

( Posted by: MacLaren [Member] On: September 22, 2004 )

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