Swimming Lessons and Such

My mountain home was calling my name, as well as the fact that Matt and I received an invitation to join some friends at their mountain cabin for a float down the river and some ribs on the grill. As a result, we had a quick trip to the mountains this weekend, including an exciting trip down the New River in the middle of a thunderstorm and some of the best ribs that we’ve ever had.

The canoe trip wasn’t what everyone expected it to be, though I believe that we all still had a lot of fun. It had been many years since I had spent any time on the New River, but I was glad to see that it was as bucolic as ever. Only our hosts were master canoeists, so there were many trips into the river by the rest of us. Luckily, the river was low, so no swimming experience was necessary to save one’s self from the “mighty waters”.

If someone had needed water rescue, however, then they were lucky that I was there. Thanks to years of swimming lessons when I was growing up, I’m sure that I could have provided some aid. My dad was and is a strong swimmer, acting as a life guard during summer breaks. My mama’s family, on the other hand, was not a family of strong swimmers. Swimming was just not a pastime that they pursued while growing up in the mountains. Mama says that she and all her sisters were warned constantly to stay away from water, that they would surely drown if they went any where near it. The threats worked since I don’t believe that any of my maternal aunts can swim. When they started having children of their own, they determined that they wanted their children (me and my cousins) to be raised without fear of water and with the ability to swim.

Thank goodness for my Aunt Mary June, also known as Aunt Mur (or Mur). Aunt Mur worked for the school system, so in the summers, she became the taxi driver for us. Years before anyone had ever coined the phrase “soccer mom” and years before the release of the minivan, Aunt Mur was showing soccer moms and their vans how to do it. She drove the original minivan, the station wagon, a wonderful car that had seats in the rear that faced backward, so you could see where you had been! (This was also before I suffered from car sickness.)

When my sister and I, plus my cousins Wendi and Matt (Aunt Mur’s kids) and Tina had swimming lessons, we would pile in Aunt Mur’s station wagon, and she would burn up the road to get us there (we were usually running a little late). The station wagon also had an 8-track tape player and a Kenny Rogers’ Greatest Hits 8-track, and we sang “The Gambler”, “Lucille”, “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” and “Coward of the County”. Even now, 25 years later, I think of Aunt Mur whenever I hear Kenny Rogers.

Those two weeks of swimming lessons every summer were always so much fun. Mary June would laugh with us kids as we told each other silly jokes and we girls giggled over boys, she sang with us in the car, and she would often stop by the Dairy House after our lessons and let us get some ice cream (and extra special treat!). Driving us to a hot swimming pool to sit for 2 or 3 hours every day for two weeks never seemed like a chore for her but the best part of her summer, as well.

Because of her I learned how to do the side-stroke, how to sing the lyrics to “She Believes in Me”, and how to give with a cheerful heart. Next time I’m home, I think I’ll take my Aunt Murto get some ice cream and see if we can find some Kenny on the radio.

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