SWIM  by JODIE PATTERSON 

  “There were years when I didn’t go in the water. Not the salt pool, nor the fresh water pond. Even the sunny Delaware River down the road couldn’t tempt me. And if you ask me now ‘why,’ I’d have to say, ‘I was simply too tired’.

It was a combination of a new relationship, thirty-six months of pregnancy, two and a half years of nursing and an intense loss of self. Yes, some of life’s most beautiful gifts like love and family can cause a momentary and very deep identity crisis. Just ask any mother-wife-daughter.

For years, my body was exhausted and everything felt like a chore. So most of the time, when not frantic at work, I was sitting still, somewhere to the side, while the world enjoyed the spoils of life.

We have this gorgeous pond nestled in the hills of Pennsylvania. It’s just about perfect. Oval in shape. Framed with lavender bushes and slate rocks all around. Water the color of the evergreens. Crisp, so clear you can see your toes while you wade. And then, these little pools of warm water that surprise you when you swim through them. Warm and soft – the way pond water can be. It’s a love pond – one of the greatest gifts my husband has ever given to me.

But for years, I wouldn’t go in.

In the spring and summer times, we basically run a camp from our house. Oftentimes, there are ten children at a time—even more live in our pond. All my kids learned to swim in that water. We throw life jackets on in the morning, and send them out to explore for the rest of the day. First they sit on the raft, trepidatious, with only toes touching the water. Then, by July, a very splashy Doggie Paddle seems appropriate. And sooner than you’d expect, they’re jumping off the raft - lanky legs flailing and big toothy grins flashing. I have years of water memories through the eyes of my kids.

Swimming in the pond is a loose term. For us, it’s come to mean all things adventurous and daring, whimsical and silly, serene and holy. The Pond is a world unto itself. A world you can enter when ready and stay as long as the sun is up.

It wasn’t until my body was given back to me, that I was ready.

These days, with no kids hanging on, I sit on the big rocks while the sun is high above and wait – but not too long. Just until I’m good and warm and the kids can’t wait another moment. I start to stand up. ‘Oh Mama, are you coming in? You’ve got to. You’re gonna love it! We’re comin’ to get you!’

And then, when the raft and its captains are near, I leap on like a fairy. But only for a second. I’m in motion and I can’t be stopped. Eager faces are waiting to see what I’ll do next. I leap right off and jump into our pond – arms stretched high above my head. Water splashes everywhere and faces filled with joy applaud me. Like they can’t believe I’ve done it. Mama’s in the water!

Then, everything goes quiet and my body is cool. I’m under water and surrounded by all that is adventurous and daring, whimsical and silly, serene and holy. I’ve returned. All those years that I was tired, I’d forgotten how water can help you find yourself.

My pond is my pathway.”

Jodie Patterson
 
Jodie Patterson is a mother, activist, and beauty explorer.  
 
2013