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People Almost Met: Lily at the Pool--Water Safety for Children

Updated on December 22, 2016
CatherineGiordano profile image

Catherine Giordano is a public speaker and writer known for her inspirational essays and articles.

This story is one of a series about people whom I have almost met. The stories are about chance encounters with someone that lasts only a brief minute or two, but makes an indelible impression. It’s about encounters that in a small way change my life.

The encounter is too brief for an exchange of names. We may speak or touch, but we haven’t really met—hence the title, “People Almost Met.”

This story is about a young girl that I almost met one day at the pool. I never learned her name, so I’m just going to call her Lily. The name seems to suit her.

Lily At The Pool

I "almost meet" a girl (whom I call Lily) at the pool.
I "almost meet" a girl (whom I call Lily) at the pool. | Source

The Community Center's Outdoor Pool

I love to swim in the Community Center's outdoor pool. Here in Orlando, Florida the weather is almost always warm enough for the pool. It was hot on the day I met Lily, even though it was only early June.

I had changed into my bathing suit in the locker room. I walked over to the edge of the pool and removed the sandals that I was wearing to protect my feet from the hot concrete. I sat at the edge of the pool’s shallow end and slid from the ledge into the water. The water was not exactly cool, but at least it was cooler than the air temperature which had been hovering in the high 90’s for the past couple of weeks.

I joined the water-aerobics class which was just about to start. There were a lot of children in the pool because school ends at the end of May in Florida. The instructor decided that the class would use the second and third lanes of the pool so the children could use the first lane next to the edge of the pool. She moved the floating lane-dividers to form one lane out of the second and third lanes.

The Water-Aerobics Class

I joined about 20 women in a water aerobics class. Most were older women—women “of a certain age,” as the French like to describe us. Because we would be exercising in the deep water and our feet would not be able to touch bottom, the instructor handed out foam flotation devices to each participant. I fastened my belt around my waist.

The instructor put us through our paces. We pretended to race walk, we pretended to be riding a bicycle, we pretended to be marching. Each exercise required us to propel ourselves through the water from the shallow edge of the pool to the deep edge and back. We did the exercises in a “U” formation, using the third lane (the one furthest from the side edge of the pool) to head towards the deep water and the second lane as we headed back towards the shallower end.

As I headed back to the shallow water, I noticed a young girl in the first lane. She looked to be about five years old. She was at the five-foot depth mark. She sank below the water, popped up, then sank down and popped up again.

Lily

A young girl, who I am calling Lily, sank below the water in the pool.
A young girl, who I am calling Lily, sank below the water in the pool. | Source

A Memory

The girl triggered a memory from nearly sixty years ago.

I was about eight years old in a large public pool filled with children. I was standing in water about chest deep, when I saw a boy, younger and smaller than me, bobbing up and down in the water. He sank below the surface, touched the bottom of the pool with his feet, and then popped up again. I wondered if he was playing or drowning. I thought if he was playing and I grabbed hold of him, he would be angry with me. But just in case he was drowning, I walked over and stood very close so he could grab hold of me or ask me for help. He did neither; he just kept bobbing up and down.

Suddenly, the lifeguard, a young man, swooped down like Superman, and grabbed the boy. As he lifted the boy into his arms, he gave me a dirty look. His look said, “What is the matter with you? A boy is drowning and you just stand there and watch!”

I stood there shame-faced. I wanted to explain, but “faster than a speeding bullet,” they were gone.

The Rescue

I broke away from the class and swam towards the girl. She was only about eight feet away from me. I reached her quickly, despite being slowed by the flotation device. I wrapped my arm around her waist. Her back was against my upper arm and my forearm went completely around her body. I am tall enough to stand in five feet of water, so I gently guided her to the edge of the pool. She was so light in the water that it felt like she weighed nothing at all.

I moved the girl over to the ledge of the pool. She grabbed hold of the ledge, turned to me and lifted her head slightly. Our eyes met and her face lit up with the most beatific smile. I saw her face for the first time. She was a beautiful Hispanic girl with pale olive skin, dark eyes, and long dark hair swept back from her face.

“Thanks,” she said in a clear melodious voice.

It was then that I noticed a woman standing to my side. She had been talking with a small boy sitting on the ledge, but now she turned towards me. I remembered that the girl had called out “Mami.” just once. as she bobbed up. I realized that this woman must be the girl’s mother. The girl’s cry had not been very loud and apparently her mother had not heard her over the noise of all the children in the pool.

The woman’s look said, “What are you doing with my daughter?”

“She seemed to be struggling in the water a little,” I told her.

I swam away and rejoined the aerobics class.

Teach Children to Swim

Maisy Learns to Swim: A Maisy First Experiences Book
Maisy Learns to Swim: A Maisy First Experiences Book

You should teach your child to swim at a young age. However, children often think they can swim better than they actually can. Keep a close watch over them even if they know how to swim.

 

No One Saw Anything

There were two life guards at the pool that day, and they hadn't seen anything. The girl's mother hadn't seen anything. None of the people in the water-aerobics class saw anything. None of the other children in the pool saw anything. I was the only one who saw anything.

No one even saw me rescue the girl.

Later as I left the pool, I saw the girl again. She was in the shallow water. I made eye contact with her, but she showed no sign of recognizing me.

I walked to the locker rooms with a light step. Years ago I did a stupid thing because I was only a kid, and I didn’t know any better. But now more than 60 years after that long ago day in the pool in New York City, I got a second chance. A chance to wipe away my shame.

Pool Safety

Watch your children carefully when they are in the water.
Watch your children carefully when they are in the water. | Source

Post Script:

A few weeks later, I was watching the local news on TV. The report was about a family on vacation playing in a hotel swimming pool. A young boy drowned while only a few feet away from his family. The mother’s attention had been focused on her younger son.

A Common Misperception

There is a common misperception that a person who is drowning will call for help or flail their arms. It doesn't happen that way, not even with adults. A drowning person usually just bobs up and down as I described it in my story. When they surface, they are trying to grab a breath of air; they don't have the breath or the time to yell.

If a child is in the water (even a bathtub), you must keep "eyes on" 100% of the time. Don't turn your back even for a minute. A drowning can happen so fast.

This story is about MY second chance.

Have you ever gotten a second chance as an adult to make up for something wrong that you did as a child?

See results

Even babies under a year old can learn to swim

© 2015 Catherine Giordano

I welcome your comments about my story or about your own second chances.

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I voted no on the poll only because I can't think of anything like that happening. Great story and I'm glad you got your second chance.

      Happy New Year!

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Thanks Billybuc. You might think of something later, something similar emotionally although different circumstances. Or maybe it just is rare to get a second chance. I'm pretty sure I spent 60 years watching children in water.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Great story Catherine. I'm glad you got a second chance to ease your conscience from the first incident.. even if it took 60 years. Things like that stay with you. It brings back very similar memories for me too. When I was about 10 or 11 I was at a public pool and I saw a young girl about 6 or 7 bobbing up and ddown out of her depth....I made my way over to her and helped her to the side of the pool. Suddenly another girl about my age raced oer and started abusing me...accusing me of touching her little sister.....My God! I thought, I'll never do a good deed again. I thought I was saving her from drowning. All my kids were taught to swim from a young age.

      Anyway I loved this "people I almost met" story, look forward to more. Voted up.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Thank you Jodah. Was she drowning? Yu were braver than me. You helped. I hope you were able to straighten the situation out. I hope you continued to do good deeds. I'm glad you enjoyed my story even if it brought back a bad memory for you.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Well she was in trouble, bobbing up and down..I thought she was in danger of drowning. Not sure if the situation was sorted out....anyway, I try to still do good deeds, whether I get thanked or not.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      You probably right. The girl was drowning and you saved her whether or not anyone appreciated it.

    • Iris Draak profile image

      Cristen Iris 2 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      That is a lovely story. I don't know if I've had the chance to make up for something like that. I'll have to ponder that. Any piece of writing that makes me ponder makes me want to read more pieces like that. I say yes to a series. :)

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      I'm glad you say "yes" to the series Iris because I have some more coming down the pike. My story about The Christmas Elf has been edited because it is part of the series. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      I sense the satisfaction you got from your second chance. Looking for more stories. Quite a creative idea!

    • clivewilliams profile image

      Clive Williams 2 years ago from Nibiru

      i wish i could swim well. My son and daughter puts me to shame.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Thank you MsDora. I'm glad you like it. I've been writing these for a couple of years. Every now and then. Once I thought I could compile them into a book, but I think it is too slight an idea for a book. I'm hoping it works well as a series for HubPages. Quick little vignettes might work here--an interesting three-minute read.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Clive, it is never too late to learn to swim. thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 2 years ago from Wales

      Thanks for sharing your story Catherine ;voted up and thoroughly enjoyed.

      Eddy.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Thank you Eiddwen for your kind words and vote. I'm always pleased to hear that someone enjoyed my little story.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      Another great story, Catherine. It's difficult to decide whether to interfere or not isn't it? I suppose I would err on the side of caution but you never know until you're put into that situation.

      I like this series of yours. I can think of chance encounters in my life, when you wonder what will happen to someone even though you know you won't see them again. Fascinating. Is it fate? I don't know.

      Looking forward to reading the rest.

      Ann

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Thanks annaart. This is an example of a brief encounter that changes my life. I was thinking that perhaps I shouldn't go on with the series. I thought: It's not the kind of thing that is successful on hub pages or online. it's just fluff; I need to write about important things. It's not interesting to anyone but me But you said you want to read more. So now I think I will do more. Thanks for your encouragement, Ann.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      It's interesting and worthwhile because these are the sort of things that happen to anyone, that we can relate to. I would bet that just about everyone has had some sort of encounter like this, be it with a child or an adult. It's life changing because we have to make decisions; those decisions can affect both us and the other people concerned (and probably those connected on each side).

      Do please continue. Sharing. (I rarely say about votes and sharing, though I invariably vote on each hub I read - not often shared though.)

      Ann

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Thanks again, ann. It's lovely sharing with you. When I first started on HP, I didn't know what votes and sharing were. I learned by people telling me they did it in the comments. Now I'm here 7 months and it still means something to see it. To me, it says," I really really like your hub. I'm not just saying nice things to be polite."

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Thanks for sharing your story. Something similar happened to me as a teenager. No thanks at all for rescuing a five year old from the end of a jetty when I returned her to her parents.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Thank you, BlossomSB for reading and commenting. The parents were probably embarrassed that their child had almost drowned because they weren't paying attention. At least you know that you saved a life that day. I hope that my story will teach people what drowning looks like so they won't make the same mistake I made when I was eight.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 2 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      I agree that this is important information. See also the hub SIGNS OF DROWNING by amkatee.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      B. Leekley: Thanks for sharing the information about signs of drowning.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      This is a terrific story on so many levels. It's too bad the mother in particular reacted as she did.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      The story is really about me more than Lily. I wasn't offended by the mother. She didn't know what had happened. She just saw some woman interfering with her daughter. My guess is that the daughter never told her what happened. Thanks for reading my people-almost-met series and commenting. I really enjoy seeing how people are affected differently by the stories.

    • Jen Chakrii profile image

      Jen Chakrii 2 years ago

      Thanks for content useful it

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      I'm glad you enjoyed my story, Jen.

    • Jen Chakrii profile image

      Jen Chakrii 2 years ago

      nice to meet you

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Thank you Jen for reading my hub. It is nice to meet you. I hope you enjoyed meeting Lily.

    • colorfulone profile image

      Susie Lehto 2 years ago from Minnesota

      What a powerful message from a personal perspective. I agree, if parents are going to let their children swim, they should have some swimming lessons. I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child, and being so close but so far.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Colorforone: I'm glad you liked my story. I'm glad I was there to prevent a tragedy. Thanks for your comment.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 10 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Interesting, engrossing and I consider this story as important too!

      Many of us have similar experiences of life that may seem small but teach big lessons of life. Children safety is most important and the kids are so unpredictable that the parents and elders have to be really vigilant .

      Thanks for sharing!

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 10 months ago from Orlando Florida

      ChitrangadaSharan: Thanks for your comment. You can't take your eyes off little kids for a second. And then the teen years brig a whole new set of challenges.

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