My daughter,Leslie, dropped me off at Adamsville Rec Center. It is a neighborhood away from her Collier Heights Home of brick ranch style houses of every variety that had steep drive ways in hilly wooded landscapes and lawns that ended at the street. No sidewalks. I go there five days a week, Monday through Friday, on my two-month long visit for an hour and a half of swimming laps in the heated pool. I am greeted in an Atlanta warm–honey urban southern drawl”
“Why hello Mam, how ya doin today?”
I drop my West Coast accent, even though I haven’t lived in the south for twenty–five years.
“Why, hello to you, darlin. I’m doing just fine, thank you. And you?”
I pay two dollars for the swim and make my way to the women’s locker room that is especially clean and has a well designed disability dressing rooms and shower stalls. I walk through the women’s locker room door dressed in my black speedo swim suit, size 24, and black flip flops holding a cane.
I push the women’s locker room door open and begin to make a hard right turn toward the Olympic size pool and the walk between eight swimming lanes on the right, observer bleachers above, and on the left. I am looking forward to my twenty–five laps to keep my recently replaced knee in good shape, my un–replaced knee with minimal swelling and pain, and in need of prescription pain medication. I’m ready to bask in one of my places of meditation and prayer, and stroke, turn, stroke and turn again, and again.
As I turned right, I nearly collide into a young man. We are both surprised. He steps back and moves out of my way, while holding the door for me. He is a young black boy. He is ten, maybe eleven-years-old, growing into a young man. He has a wiry muscled and toned swimmers body. Water is beaded on his skin the color of new pecans. He has a close haircut and dark caramel eyes. He was passing the women’s locker room door in route to the men’s locker room holding swimmer’s goggles and other swim gear. Other young men are passing us by after their team swim workout. Each of them say, “Evenin Mam,” Hello Mam” How ya doin Mam,” as they have been taught.
The young man who nearly collided into me, the one with the new pecan colored skin and the caramel colored eyes, did so automatically. Home training, especially for an elder. As he held the door, however, he paused, turned his head to the side, moved his head back a bit, tucked his chin in a little. In this seconds silent exchange, he looked me up and down slowly, like I was a dark milk chocolate ice cream swirl and said, “Well hellooo… there!”
His voice was a boy’s. His look is pure unrivaled appreciation.
I responded with a friendly, but elder–to–child, “Thank you, son,” (for stopping and letting me pass) “And good evening to you, darlin.”
I passed to his left and walked toward the pool. I didn’t look back. I know he was still looking at me noting the rhythm of my flip-flopping steps, my cane on the tiled pool deck, my wide coffee with a generous pour of milk body, swaying hips, ample buttocks, thighs, legs to the ankles and back up again, to my graying long locks banded into a thick pony tail.
As I walked pass eight lanes of teams of swimmers, their hands stroking and legs kicking, I heard them making the sounds of water falls or high waves rushing to shore. Swim coaches blew whistles and shouted directions and encouragement. I was surprised and delighted as I looked into the face of this growing boy. I saw him. Boys like him whose grand mothers and grandfathes, I had grown up with, our families were neighbors or church members or socialand pleasure club members. The appreciation in his eyes told me that he appreciated my size. He likes big bosomed, big butt women, and so did the boys and men that make up the constellation of his living. In his voice, I hear he had been taught to appreciate and praise power and grace when he found himself in its presence.
I kept my smile small, but allowed beams of pleasure and sweetness to enter my warm liquid sanctuary at the same time I entered the Adamsville Rec’s heated pool.
Andrea R. Canaan