I should have been wearing my red one-piece tank today. I was so proud of that suit in college. I ran my hand across the flaky white letters, “lifeguard” with pride. I strapped my life-saving fanny pack to my slender hips each morning and felt powerful, needed. I felt a sense of purpose. The suit gave me confidence. I might as well have been wearing a cape and mask. It didn’t hurt that “Baywatch” was enormously popular at that time and my inflated ego sat on my shoulder and encouraged me to run as often as possible. I would, doing my best to imitate Pamela Anderson or Nicole Eggert, running slowly so as to ensure that just the right amount of bouncing occurred. I had it down to a science in my head. I’m pretty sure, though, that I looked more like CJ’s ungainly sister than CJ herself.
It has been ten years since I retired my red lifeguard suit to pursue my “real life.” I don’t even know where it is anymore. I was pleased to discover this week that my skills, unlike my suit, are still close to the surface. I have rescued my daughter from the perilous water three times in the past three days. The first time she jumped in the water from the stairs wearing her little pink inner tube. Instead of going feet first into the water, her head and body went in and her feet and legs waved in the air. I pulled her out, watched her retch and cough a few times and she was back in the water in seconds. The second time she was swimming around the pool in her inner tube and fell right through the hole. I rescued her again, this time from the side of the pool. I ran to the edge, grabbed her arm (her body is quite buoyant) and pulled her to a standing position on the edge of the pool. The third time was the most dramatic. It involved running.
The red tank has been replaced by a matronly tankini with a skirt bottom, a classic “Mom suit.” Generous hips have replaced the slender body that once resided in this skin and gravity has set in with a vengeance. My daughter was running into a gradual entry pool, doing her best to keep up with her brother, when she found herself in waters that were too deep for her short stature. I was in the shallowest part of the pool watching her. I immediately leapt to my feet and sprinted across the pool to my daughter’s side. There was no ego whispering in my ear, telling me to move a certain way to ensure maximum beauty and sex appeal. There was only the animalistic instinct to protect my child. CJ had nothing on me today.