Pulling up to the pool for Grace’s first meet with her new team, I was overcome with a wave of emotion. I felt a little out of place, I don’t know many of the parents in her group. I do know a handful of parents from other sites but many of them weren’t at this particular meet. NCAP pulls kids from all over Maryland and Virginia, I’m not sure I will ever know too many people. RMSC is a large team but all of the kids come from Montgomery County. Having three kids in the program for many years I know (or at the very least have seen) every one at the meets. These are the same people we swim against in the summer, go to school with, see at the gym or grocery store. I’m a very social person by nature and I was definitely outside my comfort zone. I opted to time during the first session to pass the time. I wasn’t sure how Grace would react to her first meet with the new team.
She was fine. I dropped her off at the door and got a quick wave goodbye.
I parked and drank my coffee. The meet was at a pool we swam at many years ago. Grace and Sarah were just getting started in swimming and swam for a very small club. I always park in the same place at this pool. It’s a lot that is on a slight hill just above a door that grants direct pool access. Being a meet day, the door was propped wide open. Just beyond the door was the area where her old team sat.
Grace always referred to her little group as the children under the stairwell. There were never more than 15 or so kids from this club at a meet session. They certainly didn’t get choice seating. I suspect a rat or two made its way through base camp. The team was so small that they rarely had enough kids to field a 4 man relay. After a year, Grace made the decision she needed something more social. That was what led us to RMSC. It’s also what led her away this year.
I couldn’t help but remember our humble beginnings with swim. I especially had no idea what we were doing. One thing that Grace always knew – she wanted bags tags, tie dyed championship t-shirts, zones jackets, to make finals and to swim in an A relay. And to have friends. She did all of that and more.
As I walked into the meet I remembered why Grace swims. Because she loves it. It wasn’t her best meet. It also wasn’t her worst. But she had fun. And she smiled. Her swim bag zippers are covered in bag tags. She has accomplished a lot and grown into a woman in all her years of swimming. But at this meet I saw her as my ten year old baby who swam at that pool all those years ago.
The funny thing is, I always hated that pool. And I found myself walking in with a smile. Maybe it is because I don’t know anyone. It was kind of fun to sit alone. In silence. And in thought. It felt like home. For Grace.