Water games

by tamarjacobson

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[Me at the Michmoret beach, May 2012]

Quote of the day:

Make sure that swimming is somewhere in your memoir. Why? I don't know. It seems a memoir needs a splash of water. For now, give us ten minutes of it. Go. Tell us something about swimming.

Of course, swimming can lead to drowning. When did you feel like you were drowning? Go. Another ten. (Natalie Goldberg: Old Friend From Far Away. Page123)

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This summer I treated myself to a pool membership. I always forget how much I love to swim. Of course, I much prefer the ocean and seas of one sort or another, but pools are fine too. It is something about being enveloped by a body of water. Like the heated blanket the nurse wrapped around my shoulders yesterday when I woke up out of the anesthetic at the Huntingdon Valley Surgery Center. I smiled and said, "This feels like a warm hug." Swimming in a body of water has the same sensation for me. A warm hug. Yes. I feel loved. My body breaks free and plunges into the water, usually head first, no matter the temperature, and I feel joy from the top of my head to the tips of my toes that splash around, up and down behind me. I wonder if I adored swimming around in my mother's womb. Although I came out quite quickly and easily according to the stories my mother tells me about my birth day. She reports that she was sitting chatting with the midwife when suddenly out I came – surprising everyone. Perhaps I was keen to emerge. That tale always delights me. At least my birth did not cause her pain or suffering, for from then on I seemed to cause her constant trouble or distress in one way or another – for the rest of my life. Until most recently perhaps. Have we made our peace?

It has something to do with self pampering when I go to a place intentionally to swim. As I plow through the water dipping my face into it and coming up for air I sense a strength of purpose and feel wrapped up as if in a warm embrace all at the same time. It is almost like a reward of some kind. I experience pure pleasure and joy. I wonder if I enjoyed being bathed when I was an infant. Did people coo and smile at me as they gently lathered my little body? Was that the last time I was cuddled? For I have very little memory of being cuddled or coddled by anyone in my earliest days. Ah that wretched memory of mine! There are photographs of my sister holding me in her lap, or my father holding me high up as he gazed happily at me. So, it must have happened. Surely?

When I married my son's father in Israel back in 1972, I was required to take a ritual bath before the wedding. Weeks prior to the event, I visited with the Rabbi in a neighboring village to where my mother lived, for we were to be married in her garden. The Rabbi advised me that the best "Mikveh" was the sea, and suggested I take a dip in it the day of my wedding, with my mother as my witness. As this type of bath required full nudity, she accompanied me to the sea at four in the morning to be sure not to encounter other early morning bathers. I stripped down and after handing my clothes to her, I dived into the sea head first, and immersed my body into the luscious sea water swirling the salty taste through my mouth and lips. I swam around and in the sea for quite a few minutes. Each time that I lifted my head out of the water, I could see my mother's form in the distance, standing on the shore, holding my clothes, bearing witness to my ritual bath. It was a glorious moment for me, full of promise and spirituality, for S.B. and I had decided to marry on my birthday – in late May – late Spring for Israel at that time, when the weather was gentle, and the sea almost warm. 

This last May I visited Israel as I always do each year lately to visit with my aging mother. Two days before my birthday I awoke very early in the morning and went out to my sister's "Buddha" garden to meditate. Suddenly in the midst of concentrating on my mantras, I realized that it was forty years since that Mikveh in the Mediterranean Sea, the morning of the wedding to my son's father. I wept quietly, and then later in the day, I made sure to immerse myself in the salty waters by the Michmoret beach. It felt good to celebrate alone the anniversary of days gone by that were once so full of hope and promise for a new life.

I wrote to my ex husband and told him I had been thinking about that, and wished him a Happy Anniversary. He responded, "Nice thoughts."