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  • Writer's picturecatherine@allaboutwriters



That was the one word on the telegram that came from England when I was born. The senders were my godfather and his wife, the parents of my Zia, who is my godmother. Being the youngest of seven, and the only girl, there was some excitement at my birth, for the novelty of a girl after all those boys. Even an Italian family can appreciate a girl...after a goodly number of boys, that is.

This is also the word I declared when my son today moved up a level in swimming classes. Finally. It has been a long and uncomfortable road, but we have gotten to the place where we consider his swimming is...good enough. Our boy is a lot of wonderful things, but swimming has not been a naturally happy state for him. From his first moments in the pool until this very afternoon when I tapped into all my superhuman mothering powers to get us to the pool on time, it's been hard work.

As we speed-walked into the pool, a few minutes late after the "I-can't-go-to-swimming-because..." conversation that is usual on a Wednesday, goggles and towel in hand, I remind him to keep those arms close to his ears in freestyle, to kick his legs close to the surface in backstroke. I know these are the things he needs to demonstrate to move up a level, so we've been working on them. He pulls his giant goggles over his head and plunges into the pool, being careful as always to keep his eyes above the water line. I sigh, both in disbelief at the face in water thing and relief at him being in the water, and find a place at the poolside to watch. I'm resigned in the fact that there is no end in sight to the years of swimming lessons we have endured together.

As the lesson ends, I smile widely as he and his sister come towards me out of the pool and dripping wet. I can see the instructor heading our way too, with a scrap of paper in her hand. I stop. I can't look. I've been disappointed too many times. I maintain focus on the kids as they approach, red marks on their faces from their goggles. As I wrap each child and ruffle hair with towels, the instructor gains my attention and hands me the paper. It's the paper, the paper to take to the desk to arrange moving my child to the next level. My heart stops as I search the paper for the name - please, please, please let it be his. Please don't let his younger sister have moved up and not him. Searching...details...level...and there it is...his name? It is! I try to contain myself, wanting to reach over and kiss the instructor who eyes me warily and steps aside, a warm but somewhat guarded smile on her face. I express my happiness, my relief that he has graduated from this level. Finally.

It may seem a stretch to compare this to the moment I was born - the moment a girl entered our family after all those boys - but the word that is legend in my family is the word that came from my mouth as I grabbed my boy by the cheek in full Italian style, smiling and sharing the news.


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