Saturday, February 23, 2008

Pool Ladies, by Kat Magendie

Recently, I bought a pass to the gym to get that extra resistance training I’d been craving. During my warm-up, I walk a treadmill that faces the pool. It is there that I watch them—the Pool Ladies. They all look to be in their sixties, seventies, and eighties. Without self-consciousness, they promenade the length of the pool, heads held high, their multi-colored bathing suits modest, but still exposing all the flesh that bathing suits will expose. Then, one by one, they enter the pool, down the concrete steps, wade through the water in a ragged single file, and begin their water aerobics.

They are as graceful as dancers in their purpose. I imagine aches and pains and stiffness are forgotten as the water cradles them, holds them buoyant. Their lower bodies waver in the water, strong legs that have carried them through their years; and their upper bodies sway, chests that hold hearts that loved or broke, arms that carried babies or burdens, hands that stroked fevered brows or clapped with happiness or held palms together for wishes they never knew would come true, and perhaps some never did.

I watch them with envy. I want to project myself down in the water with them. I want to be a part of the Pool Ladies. Then I do imagine myself with them. I am wearing a bright red bathing suit, one I found at JC Penny’s on sale for twenty-nine ninety-nine. We are chatting and laughing and telling our stories. But, once we are down those stairs, once our dance begins, there is silence, only the sound of water gently lapping against our bodies disturbs the solemnity of the moment.

Finally, the Pool Ladies exit the water, chatting again like birds on a fence. Their faces are animated, full of high color. One by one, they disappear from my view. I miss them. I slow the treadmill and step off, make my way to the weight room. I hope to see one of the Pool Ladies, but, if I did, what would I say? They know all the secrets I am to find out, and those secrets are not mine to have, not yet. Then I know—“Thank you for reminding me what I have to look forward to.” That’s what I’d say to the Pool Ladies.


Angie Ledbetter said...

Bravo, bravo! If you ever do speak with one of the Pool Ladies, please hug them for me.

Love this description. I could see them:

Finally, the Pool Ladies exit the water, chatting again like birds on a fence.

Nannette Croce said...

For many years I taught specialized exercise programs for seniors at various senior centers and assisted living communities. I learned that, despite what I saw in my immediate family, it was possible to age gracefully, and to take joy in the company of others even when aches and pains made movement difficult.

Barbara Quinn said...

I was right there beside you in the gym on the treadmill looking at the Pool Ladies. So visual.

Mary Ann said...

Lordy, Kat! First of all you actually felt a need for more strenuous exercise? Then you give us this essay that so catches us off-guard, on bird-plumaged water ladies.

The article is beautifully written, Kat. One sees the lack of concern in the water ladies for any extra cellulite of fat hanging about. One feels their sense of sorority, admittance only by experience and age. One watches their water ballet with the same quiet seriousness with which they dance.

And, oh, the descriptions of those old hands. How you do make us seem them and experience all they have experienced.

Thanks for another grand one!


Kathryn Magendie said...

Thank you for coming by, reading, and then taking the time to comment - your support means so much to us (to me!)

Mary Ann said...

A pleasure. In fact, since I cannot seem to locate a copy of Eudora Welty's short short "A Pageant of Birds" (about Af-Am women dressed as, well, all sorts of birds and walking their bird-walk to their church for the performance), I wonder if I might use your "Pool Ladies" instead. Very much the same feel.


Kathryn Magendie said...

Use whatever moves you *smiling*

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