March 7, 2018: Swimming and Saucers

 “You have to go through the falling down in order to learn to walk. It helps to know that you can survive it. That’s an education in itself.”

Carol Burnett

I’m going to do my best to intersperse some stories that are a little more light hearted (to assure you I do in fact have a sense of humor, I promise).

Here’s the story of how I lost my first tooth…permanent tooth, that is.

Did you know that some school systems require you to learn how to swim? Well, Columbia MO is one of those school systems (or were, I don’t know if they still do this). Here’s how the process works.

Fourth grade is rounded up on to the bus with their swim gear in tow. We drive into the city (I lived in the outskirts) to Hickman High school.

For your information, there are now three high schools in Columbia. At the time of this story there were two, Hickman was the best one (it had a great football program). Also, they had an Olympic size swimming pool.

Once at the pool the first few days was spent categorizing swimmers. Those who had never swam never left the shallow end, those who could keep afloat were in 3-5 foot territory, those who knew how to swim were in 6-9 foot, etc.

I could keep afloat and … that was about it. If you didn’t already know this about me, I have a phobia of large bodies of water. I do okay with pools (my paralysis doesn’t kick in) but it is not a relaxing time for me.

I was put in the 3-5 foot end of the pool. In this section of swim instruction I was learning life saving techniques (bobbing, wading, etc.) and basic swim strokes. It was a grand ol’ time (sense the sarcasm).

Along with my debilitating fear of water I have crazy sensitive eyes. Chlorine in any amount (just misting of the surface of the water) makes me look and act like… well you can probably figure that out from my description.  My eyes go blood shot and I get very groggy and incoherent (from headaches). So, it is a necessity that if my plan is to immerse myself in a pool, I need goggles (most forth graders would have thought they looked like a dweeb, I thought I was quite cute with them on).

The day arrives that we are learning to bob. It sounds simple enough. Bobbing is after all what buoy’s do and they’re inanimate! Turns out there is actually a multi-step process to it. Turns out it take more than one day to teach it to a fourth grader (looking back now as a teacher…this doesn’t surprise me).

Day one, I-was-a-pro. Not to be a bragert but I was at the top of my class. I was the most buoyant of animate bobbing buoy’s!

Day two…was a different story.

It all started because I forgot/lost/misplaced my goggles. Alas, as the the best bobber I could not abandon my post. I had to show ’em how it was done! Knowing full well I’d be spending the rest of the school day through bleary half swollen blood shot eyes, I courageously braved the water anyway.

All was going well. I completed our warm up and was still seeing the world fairly clearly, a slight itch in the corners of my eyes was the only irritation so far. Then it was time to start bobbing.

To practice they had you stand in three foot water on one edge of the pool. You had to bob your way to the other edge. This means you drop into the water in a crouched position at the floor of the pool, all the while exhaling. You then spring off the floor from your crouch. When you break the surface of the water you inhale in one deep drag, ready to exhale again slowly as you go back under.

In the past I had always had goggles and kept my eyes open the whole time. The irritation became too great for me to do that, so I had to close my eyes. I tried to open them when I come above the surface but the water still got under my lids. So I decide, I’ll only open my eyes oncento gage the distance to the other side. It is an olympic size pool after all, it’s not a short distance from one side to the other.

I think my plan would have been vastly improved with one alteration…hands. I should have put my arms out in front of me so they reached the edge of the pool first. Obviously, I didn’t do that.

I opened my eyes about middle way down the pool. I estimated that it was the same number of bob’s I had just taken, so I started to count down. 20, 10, 5, and so on. It happened on 3.  I should have had two more bob’s to go.

Eyes closed I vaulted off the bottom of the pool, broke the surface, opened my mouth to take a drag of air, and was on the way back down when …. C-R-U-N-C-H! My face SLAMED into the concrete edge. I remember I sort of folded like a rag doll back into the water. I as so stunned I had no control over my extremities.

My instructor jumped into the pool, picked me up, and rolled me on the walkway around the pool. In my peripheral vision the instructor in charge of the 9-12 foot range was running toward me. I remember thinking, “She’s breaking a rule! No running outside the pool!” My instructor was a man, so the 9-12 foot lady helps me stand and walks me into the girls locker room.

At this point I haven’t felt any pain, I’min shock. I’m not crying. I sort of feel like a zombie. I also remember being surprised by how clear my vision was, after spending so long in the chlorine.

The instructor’s eyes are the size of saucers. She wets a paper towel and starts wiping at my chin. It comes away soaked in blood. I’m really surprised and automatically turn to look in the mirror. The bottom half of my face is dark red and pulsing. Now my eyes are the size of saucers. I open my mouth gingerly and that is when I finally start crying.

The instructor gave me a hug and assures me, “don’t worry sweetie we already called your mom.” I cry even harder. “Does it hurt a lot?” She asks. I shake my head no and sob out, “I look like a hillbilly!!!!”

Yes folks, that was my chief concern.

Several hours later I am sitting in a chair at my moms work (she’s a dental assistant). They have placed a temporary crown over what was left of the root on my front left tooth. I’m felt better about my looks at this point. My mom was freaking out. Why?

When I smashed my face into the side of the pool, I not only knocked off my tooth, but I created hole in my bottom lip. The dentist, stitched up the outside of my lip but left the inside open, to help the swelling. I look like Bubba from Forrest Gump. And as time goes by it’s not getting better its getting worse. My bottom lip has started to engulf my top lip. Mom was worried I am having an allergic reaction to the numbing agent.

On the car ride home mom decided I deserved an ice cream and french fry from Dairy Queen. I’m munching on my food when I feel an itch between my bottom lip and lower gum line. I lower the car visor and look in the mirror.

A french fry is caught there. My whole mouth is still pretty numb and I cant get my tongue to cooperate, so I stick my fingers in to remove it. It’s stuck. That’s weird. I tell mom. Now her eyes are as big as saucers. She pulls the car over. I turn toward her and she retrieves the fry.

She holds it in front of my face and I figure out why my lip wasn’t deflating.

“Well, we found your tooth, ” mom declared.

-“And there you go.” (My Big Fat Greek Wedding)



3 thoughts on “March 7, 2018: Swimming and Saucers

  1. Caitlin Bever says:

    Oh my!! This had me laughing and cringing! My first thought was I’m glad you didn’t have to be a Kewpie in high school. While a tiger is a much more generic mascot, it’s also more appealing than a Kewpie. 🙂 Second, I had a friend in high school who got in a rubber band war. He slid across the science countertop “desk” which had a sink. He hit his mouth on the faucet, which knocked his tooth out. To this day, I believe his mom still thinks some boys were wrestling in the hallway between classes and he tried being a vigilante. For a day and a half, he indeed looked like a hillbilly!


    • I’m very glad I didn’t have to be a Kewpie as well!!! Ouch! The worst way I’ve ever seen someone loose teeth was when practicing the basics of golf and sharing clubs, a girl stood to close behind her partner and took a nine-iron to the face.


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