diving in, part 1


my children can swim
thanks to my checkbook
and the efforts of one intrepid swimming teacher named mr. bob
who taught swimming lessons
in a lake.

a lake with a diving board.

students who arrived on time were ferried across the lake in a fishing boat.

students who arrived late
were walked to the other side by their mother –
one heavy screaming child attached firmly
and completely
to each leg.
(we were only late that one time.)

mr. bob explained
then showed
the would-be swimmers what to do.
“put your face in the water,” he’d say
before putting his own face in the water and blowing bubbles.
some did as they were told,
and they heard mr. bob clapping when they emerged.
others didn’t,
so mr. bob pushed their cute little heads under.
(that was the only time i used the binoculars.)
then, at the end of every hour-long lesson,
he put his sopping wet students back in the boat
and ferried them back to the other side of the lake
where with great fanfare,
he issued blue ribbons
he’d carefully cut
then embellished
with positive, encouraging, supportive words
he’d written in glitter glue.

finally it was the lesson
they’d been waiting for:
time to go off the diving board.
mr. bob ferried the boat to
the other side,
then ordered his students
to climb
one at a time
through the 2.25 clouds
to the tippy top of the diving board.
then he said simply,
some did as they were told,
and they heard great applause when they emerged.
others didn’t,
so mr. bob pushed them off.
and they emerged with a smile
to the sound of applause.

that afternoon the backseat was filled
with laughter and glee
and other sounds of
confidence gained from meeting a challenge head on.
“let’s go to yea yea’s pool,” they directed
from the backseat,
and so we went straight to my parents’ house
where they dragged the grandparents outside
to watch their new amazing feat.

daughter moxie sashayed to the end of the board
and jumped right off,
emerging with a smile to the sound of much applause.
son slug marched to the end of the board
and stopped.
he flat-out stopped.
he stood there shivering for a few minutes,
looking down at the water,
envisioning himself leaving the board,
entering the water,
and emerging with a smile
to the sound of great applause
and the full body feeling
of downright satisfaction.
but he just couldn’t coax his body to play it out.
so, finally,
with an full body sigh,
he looked across the pool at me, shrugged his shoulders, and said,
“mom, i guess you’re just gonna’ have to push me.”

to be continued tomorrow . . .


  1. susanreep

    I can't wait for part two. I was completely engaged in this story immediately. I liked what you said about your aunts in the comment on my post. Somehow, people who know my parents but see them for only 1/2 hour at a time or so think they're fine. They seem to trust their opinions over what I have to say. I love it when people argue about something they know nothing about.

  2. Julie

    I can't wait for part 2. You had me from 'my children can swim.'
    You are an incredible writer, darling.
    love, love, love you jeanne.

  3. thewordwire

    This diving board-hanger is a real cliff-hanger. I'm waiting with baited breath to see what beautiful wisdom comes from this story. You've got all kinds of thoughts swimming around in my head.

  4. angelakelsey

    This is wonderful, Jeanne, on about five levels. I especially love the asides–you have granted my DM wish to hear from you already.

  5. Kira

    cliffhanger blog post!!! this is diabolical…. 🙂

  6. ronnadetrick

    I'm smiling and crying all at the same time – while also just imagining where tomorrow will take me. SO beautiful!

    I'd love to say that I'm always willing and able to jump – whether applause awaits me or not, but sometimes I just need the push…from the one who will also dive in and save me when needed.

  7. Square-Peg Karen

    ooooooooh, hope part 2 comes SOON! Can't wait…

  8. whollyjeanne

    like i always say, real love means setting yourself aside and doing what's right, regardless of how hard it is.

  9. whollyjeanne

    thanks, darlin'. would write more, but i'm trying to get rid of this stinkin' roommate;)

  10. whollyjeanne

    yeah, i've got thoughts swimming, but no fluffy bird sitting on my car to make sure i don't miss the spectacular view . . .

  11. whollyjeanne

    you get on the other side of that deadline, and we're gonna' have ourselves a good, long (digital) talk.

  12. whollyjeanne

    ha ha ha. hope you're settling into this semester. hope we'll soon be having our writeup meetup.

  13. whollyjeanne

    well, ronna, if you ever need somebody to push you, just look across the (digital) pool and tell me cause you are a rich font of thought-provoking, inspiration.

  14. whollyjeanne

    working on it now, sweetpea.

  15. AlanaSheeren

    Ohhhh…tears in my eyes, and as always, you have me smiling.

  16. emma

    Awesome. You are such an amazing storyteller. And as graceful in your pushing as in your cheers and applause. Thank goodness for the pushing. Lucky kids.

  17. Jennifer Prentice

    I too am waiting to see what part 2 holds..99% because you are a fabulous writer, but 1% because I VERY CLEARLY remember swimming lessons as a child. The diving board freaked me out and to this day, I can swim, but I can't dive…I'm sure there's a metaphor for my life somewhere in there.

  18. shoreacres

    What a wonderful story! I can't wait for part 2, either.

    The telling does make me just a little queasy. I can swim now, but my first lessons were at the Y. I was put in a group of intermediate swimmers instead of beginners. When the instructor said “jump in”, I was too shy to mention I couldn't swim, and jumped. They had to pull me off the bottom and re-evaluate my skills!

  19. whollyjeanne

    good. you've had too many tears lately.

  20. whollyjeanne

    thanks, emma. i'm admittedly bashful about my written storytelling abilities (or lack thereof). in person, i'm fine, but i go to set stories to paper, and i hear teacher voices telling me to use more adjectives, tell more of this or that. but i just like a more bareboned story. i just do.

  21. whollyjeanne

    you, too, sugar?

  22. whollyjeanne

    such a compliment coming from a fantastic writer/storyteller. i have just figured out who you are and that i have been enjoying your blog for a long while now. sorry about that mixup on the swimming lessons, though. ouch.

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