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Sunday, June 27, 2004

Mikey's big jump

I couldn't believe my eyes. There, perched atop the high diving board at Bay Village Pool, was my youngest, Michael—all 42 inches and 43 pounds of him. I nudged my husband from his conversation with our friend Dan and said, "Look at the high dive."

"Oh my God! What's he doing?" Danny responded, trying really hard to hide the bit of terror in his voice. I had been reading my book and must have sensed him up there because I paused a moment to take a headcount of the kids and there he was, inching his way to the end of the board.

I knew this day was coming. On Monday, he attempted to pass the deep water swimming test (swim the length of the diving pool without touching the wall) and only made it halfway. On Tuesday, he wanted to try again. So I corraled the guard at break time and Mikey jumped in. I walked along the side of the pool, encouraging him along the way. What Michael lacks in skill and form, he more than makes up for in sheer tenacity. "It wasn't pretty," the guard said, "but he did it."

So every day Michael gets a wristband that allows him to go off the diving boards and the giant slides. It's another rite of passage for us, my days of sitting aside the baby pool while little ones pour cups of water into buckets long gone.

He started on the low boards. He was tentative at first, inching his way past the side rails of the low dive and fighting the fear of having nothing to grab onto. By his tenth jump, he was running and jumping and doing cannonballs like the big guys.

He's been trying the high dive all week, but just couldn't muster the courage to make it past the side rails. That's awfully high for a big person, but looks impossibly gigantic when your five years old and a half-foot short of the required height.

But there he was, smiling from ear to ear, shivering from both fear and cold, looking for all the world as if he would lose his suit upon jumping. I heard the roar of big kids (led by older brothers, Ryan and Patrick, and their chorus of friends) all chanting, "Mi—key, Mi—key, Mi—key…"

Dan, Dan and I jumped up to the fence to watch. In an instant, he jumped. His little body barely went under water before he bobbed back up, a little disoriented from the big jump. Somehow he managed to doggie-paddle and underwater swim his way to the ladder on the opposite side of the pool. His face was beaming and the cheers of support that erupted upon his jump were enough to make him get back in line for another go. This time, he gave us all the double thumbs-up and then did his very best Ernest Givens touchdown dance on top of the board, holstering his imaginary pistols before taking the plunge. For a brief moment, my little Mikey was larger than life.

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