Next thing I knew, I was eating toast with peanut butter and drinking grape juice for breakfast with mom and Jessie. Then, blurry-eyed, I dressed for class.
Mom drove to the college campus and we quickly walked through the cold March morning air into the student activity center. We had our suits on underneath already so we just stripped and set our towels down and into the pool we went.
The water was comfortable. It was a big class that day. Probably 25 women. My niece and I were guests of course and they all knew each other.
White haired heads bobbed up and down all around me. Most of them were smiling and chatting. My dad had warned me to “watch out for body parts floating at the bottom of the pool!” and I laughed thinking about how much he would actually love being here with mom 3 times a week, entertaining the old ladies with his jokes. He really needs the exercise.
Water aerobics is pretty darn tough, to be perfectly honest. I caught myself looking up at he clock a few times hoping to be through with the hour. I did end up skipping out on the “cool down” so my niece and I could take hot showers.
She just loved the hot water and kept asking me to make it hotter. So I monitored the showering in the big, group shower area for a few minutes, you know the kind of showers with five heads at each station. One other woman was in there with us. She was pale and old and full bodied. Her breasts hung low and I wondered how many children she had fed with them in her lifetime. Then I looked at 5-year old Jessie in her little rainbow bathing suit and I wanted to weep. The contrast before my eyes was devastatingly beautiful.
The woman on the other end of the showers was so old, yet so peaceful in her body. A goddess at the end of life and so full of life. She soaped herself.
Then, all of a sudden in came the rest of the class. Everyone stripped off their suits so fast. I was still wearing mine, but I suddenly started to question weather I should whip it off too and be like the group. I remember having that exact same feeling at the river in California when all of my hippy friends were lounging naked in the summer sun without a care in the world. It was that conflicting feeling of wondering if I was missing out on something great… or if I should just stay covered up in my comfort zone.
So, I took it off. Immediately I felt like I had just joined the club or something. There I was. In my flesh. Completely surrounded by flesh. White, hanging, beautiful, aged flesh. Wilted flower flesh that created life and cared for life. Potpourri flesh that had lived long and lusty lives! They had names like Marilyn, Dixie and Ginger and they were laughing and chatting away in spirited conversations. They were mermaid sages, freshly emerged from their morning swim, washing the seaweed out of their hair with Suave shampoo.
I turned off my shower and grabbed my towel. Before I could wrap it all the way around myself, mom’s friend Nancy walked up to me.
“Let me see that ring!! Oh it’s just glorious! Is it an antique?” she asked as she grabbed my hand and inspected it closely.
My engagement ring was all I had on this point. So, I’m standing there dripping with water and naked, explaining to Nancy that “no it was not an antique,” but that “he just has good taste.” This conversation went on for a few minutes as if we were speaking to each other at coffee hour after church.
I knew this moment with Nancy would resonate with me somehow over the years. I’m sure the moment would change meaning and the story would probably change too.
I knew one thing for sure. At that moment…I felt free. I felt like my body was just skin and blood and bones. Just a body. So, was it our spirits talking to each other then?