"Gordon Learns to Swim" - watercolor & ink on paper, 16" x 12"
If I were to come across this scene at the beach, I would be curious. An ape in an inflatable ring. This piece made me smile the whole time I was painting it. I found myself talking to Gordon, reassuring him the water was cool and would feel good, that the float would hold him up above the water, that swimming was fun. The same things I used to tell my kids to get them into the water.
Arm floats were the best thing ever in my family. All of the children wore them. They instilled instant confidence and made my little ones much more daring than I wanted them to be. Once the floats were on, they would set off for the middle of the pool, especially when we lived in Texas. There was this neighborhood pool called "The Texas Pool on the Creek". And sure enough, the pool was shaped like the state of Texas. The architects had a large island put in the center of the pool, and all the kids wanted to swim out to the island just to climb on top and jump off again. There was an entire summer where we went to The Texas Pool every day, just because the youngest ones wanted to swim to the island. Well, that and the candy sold at the entrance shop.
Despite how luxurious and relaxing it sounds to spend a summer by a pool shaped like Texas, it was actually quite stressful. The kids were as happy as they could possibly be, but the youngest were then 4 and 6. And not strong swimmers, and still wearing arm floats. So my eyes had to be on them every second, especially with much bigger, stronger kids in the water who loved to roughhouse (their older brother was one of those kids). I had to see their little heads above water at all times. Moms out there, you know this feeling...scanning the pool, looking for your child's head, feeling anxious until you find it.
So as I was painting Gordon and telling him about pool safety and all, I had to laugh at myself. It is so easy to revert to mom thoughts and mom talk, even a decade after The Texas Pool. Tonight I will bring up this summer of swimming mayhem at the dinner table. I am willing to wager my youngest child will remember the island and the candy, and not the daily safety rule lessons or even the arm floats. Because arm floats are magical, and make even the smallest child know he can reach the island.
This piece is available. Currently unframed. Inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jen Walls and her imaJENation