The water shimmers atop the electric-blue pool. The clock blinks 94 degrees. It is July 10th weather showing off. A friend asked me to watch her son. He is nine, like my son, and the two of them get along—swimmingly. They throw towels askew and fast-step-crash into the water, goggles on, challenging each other to do this and that. Nine-year-old boys, so alive.

My 11-year-old daughter and I stand and squint, placing towels neatly on our beach chairs.  She looks from face to face, like assembly line quality control. A friend—her eyes ask . . . now plead—any friend.  I look too, knowing I promised I would “get in a swim like a kid,” if nobody was there.

“I’m sure someone will be here,” I say, hopeful.

There are kids she knows, but none quite—

“Let’s go!” she says, grabbing my arm, the shift quicker than expected.

“I need to get my suit on,” I clammer, pulling back.

Begrudgingly, she lets me grab my suit and walk to the bathhouse, she skips along close, her head at my shoulder.  As I change, she sprays me with sunscreen before I can even dress.

“Give me a sec,” I say with sternness I don’t mean.

“Fine,” she says, tapping her toe.

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Finally, I ease into the water, a snail’s pace compared to her. She dolphin dives again and again, past the shallow area, past the floating lily pads, under the rope, gliding to the deep. I swish the water around my waist and lift the rope over my dry head.

“Are you cold?” a young girl in a pink suit asks, squinting through her goggles as she grips the poolside.

“Just takes me a bit to get in,” I say looking over her head.

I see my daughter far off, and after this pink-suit rebuff, something shifts. I dive in—head first. We splash around, crawl stroke a bit, and stand in the five foot. She’s tall, showing me the front flips she’s been perfecting and asks about back ones. A former lifeguard, I talk her through a backflip, with at least three reminders to not scratch your face on the bottom of the pool. She stands, throws herself backward, waving her arms in the air, flips sideways, and comes up quick, out of breath.

“That wasn’t it,” she says laughing, wiping the water from her mouth and chin. She does this again. We tweak. I suggest.

“Watch me,” I say as I awkwardly lope around, my 40-year-old flip much slower than my flip at her age. She watches, she tweaks. For an hour she flips and flops and twists, and does everything . . . except a back flip.

I brainstorm and try to get her to do a tuck instead of a larger arch. This, she kind of does, and then swims off. Still practicing, still thinking, pausing before she tries again, and again. And just like that, she’s done it.

At the end of all that flopping, she glides like a mermaid with full arch. She emerges, water dripping from her smiling face. She started the flip facing me, and there she stood, having done it, again square facing me, beaming. I clap, give a thumbs-up, mirroring her smile.

“I’m doing it again!” she says and promptly flops sideways.

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Later in the day, after three hours and pool breaks and flipping and going down both slides—even the fast one—and diving off the diving board, my daughter and I laugh yelling things underwater trying to decipher what the other is saying, knowing how none of our bubbly screams are heard just above the surface.

She’s playing with me like a kid still at age 11, and I know we’re on the cusp of these playful moments shifting into something new, more grown-up. As I’m lost in these thoughts, she’s still flipping.

As she finishes one, perfectly for the fifth time in a row, she smiles and says, “It feels majestic.” And it is. And she is.

Like a secret scream underwater, love holds us in these fleeting moments of play. These precious, these majestic moments. And I want to somehow bottle her up—but no, that’s not it—I want to set her free, knowing she’s got this . . . in so many ways, she’s got this.

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Evi Wusk

Evi (say it like Chevy) Wusk, Ed.D., is a teacher and mom who writes about gratitude, learning, and life. She lives in Sterling, Nebraska with her two giggly kiddos and bearded husband. Her writing has appeared in Learning and LeadingWord and World(In)Courage, and other publications. Follow her at eviwusk.comFacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

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