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Second lesson: Come on in, the water's fine
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Jumping right in

Times summer intern Audrey Williams never learned how to swim. She’s one of many adults who lack that skill, but thanks to some classes with the Red Cross this week and next, she’s learning how and sharing that experience in daily columns on and occasional columns in The Times.

Day 1

Still strong in my resolve to figure out the basics of swimming, I arrive at the Frances Meadows Aquatic Center ready to get back in the water,

My second swim lesson is the first time I meet my classmate, Cornelia Martin. I walk to the side of the pool, and Max Sumner, my 16-year old instructor, has her practicing a breaststroke.

“Nice to meet you. Come on in,” she said, shaking my hand and pretending to pull me into the water.
Miss Cornelia works at the center and is on her third session of swim lessons.

“I am 61 years old and for 61 years I’ve lived in fear of the water,” Martin said. “I was even afraid of the water getting in my nose when I was showering.”

If Miss Cornelia, once afraid of water in her face, can breaststroke on her own, then certainly I can blow bubbles under water.

I do a recap of the previous day’s techniques with a new determination. My determination only gets me so far, though, because I still cannot dunk my head under water. Floating, I ace.

“Remember, push your belly up,” Sumner said.

This is the trick to staying afloat: core strength combined with relaxing. I repeat it in my head.

“Belly up, eyes to the ceiling and float.” I could float like this all day.

The “glug-glug” of water in my ears doesn’t even bother me. I’m pretty darn pleased with myself, until some particularly rambunctious kids in the lane over start splashing. It throws me off, and I forget my floating mantra.

Sumner moves me up a level and starts teaching me the elements of a breaststroke using a metaphor that makes me feel like a 10-year-old.

“It’s like the pool is made of ice-cream. You scoop it out towards you like this.”

I move my hands to cup the water and push it out on either side of me.

“Then you realize you have too much, and you give some back.”

I scoop the ice cream until I have to practice the breaststroke kick.

“Knees together, then kick out. Now bring them back together,” Sumner said.

I don’t get to put the two moves together before the lesson is over, but I have a feeling that before the week is over, I’ll be breaststroking like Miss Cornelia.

We float together for a while after class, and she tells me more about her history with water.

“My family is so proud of me,” she said. “Now I won’t have to sit on the side with my toes in the water. I can get in with them. I might even be better than some of them.”

Before we part ways for the day, she reminds me that all I need is confidence to keep going.

“These classes are the best investment I’ve made. You won’t regret it.”