The smell of chlorine hangs in the air, faint and teasing, a memento from our trip to a local water park. I hang out the swimsuits to dry. The suitcases are unpacked. The children are fast asleep after an exhausting day wading in the kiddie pool, chasing waves, floating on tandem floats, jumping on lily pads and just soaking it all in at the jetted hot tubs.
As for me, I am too tired to sleep. My feet a throbbing in a good way and I can still feel the water pulsing against my skin. Growing up, my memories of playing with water is limited to the torrent of water gushing from an enormous pipe to irrigate my uncle’s rice fields. I always stood at the edges wary of the force and not a fan of walking dripping wet back home. I have never run a bath in the many, many years I have had a bathtub at home. Showers are my thing, quick, convenient and to my Madras(i) heart, economical.
Having never learned to swim, I have never owned a swimsuit. A couple of years back, I went with my cousin to a water park in Austin. I stuck to my regular clothes and on the way back wished for the first time ever that I had a swimsuit I could wear and actually have fun in the water. Then in Florida for a family reunion, the property we stayed in had a pool and a water park free to residents. I browsed and eventually bought my first swimsuit. I was very conscious of walking around in skin-tight, skimpy clothing.
As a child and teen, I viewed swimsuits as things that the elite wore. They were not for us, middle-class children who had never seen a pool. I also internalized that to wear one, you must possess a body worth flaunting. I envied those who had the panache to wear one.
Over the past two days I realized that like all else, carefully constructed notions fall apart in earth-shatteringly simple ways. When you are at a place with your children and the only way you get to participate is by going all the way, you cave and just do it. This time I went prepared.
Over a day and a half, I noticed all sorts of women. Curvy, stick thin, c-section bellies, flat bellies, flabby arms, toned arms. I fit right in. The one common thing seemed to be that no one cared. Everyone was having fun. Every single woman I noticed cheered on her children, ran behind them, sat down in the middle of the 2 ft kiddie pool and bounced her child or flat out floated with a child on the tummy.
Every few hours, I retreated to the adult only hot tub while my husband ran behind the children. I sat in the very warm water, streams pulsing through jets that pounded my calves. I sat in silence watching the water ripple away from me. I sat immersed in water, my body relaxing and giving in to the primal memory of being encased in fluid. I floated, the water lapping my neck and trickling into my ears. I just stayed there and let everything be.