Pop tunes pump through the Christiansburg Aquatic Center — songs with catchy lyrics, strong beats, and lots of energy — our 10 year old daughter’s favorite kind of music. She has, against my will, made me love these songs. Justin Bieber? I get excited when his latest comes on the radio. Justin Bieber. Sigh.
The aquatic center is packed as tight as a professional sporting event, shoulder to shoulder, warm with the body heat of hundreds of humans packed into an enclosed space. The chlorine stings my eyes, and my coffee is making me hot. I can’t put it down for fear it will get kicked over.
We are rarely this crammed at the aquatic center. The air is thick with the crowding. It is as hard to breath as a 100% humidity day in summer, like I’m breathing through gauze that presses against my nostrils as I inhale, preventing a full stream of air to enter. Despite it being mid-December, the aqua water of the pool looks inviting.
At the next call for timers, I abandon my hard-won seat and move down to the pool deck. The air is open, and despite the pungent chlorine, I can breathe again.
Timing a swim meet can be a long and tiresome job — the noise is deafening between the continual, repetitive screech of the starting whistle and the raucous screaming of kids cheering for their teammates — but on deck, you’re in the thick of the action. I can’t see for the splashes on my glasses; my feet are cold from the drenching of my shoes and jeans after scores of furious dives off the block; and the noise is exhausting.
But. I am right here with all these kids — 7-year-olds in their first swim meet, looking to me with big round eyes to help them onto the starting block; 10-year-olds at the top of their age group who don’t need me — whose focus and dedication is more mature than many adults can muster; and our daughter, who is in my lane for one of her races, and who I hug, kiss, and holler for. She cuts 5 seconds off her 100 IM (Individual Medley) time, and I am right here with her, on deck, to celebrate.