I woke at 6am on Saturday morning with a feeling of foreboding in my tummy. I lay in the dark, trying to decipher where the anxiety was coming from. What day was it? Had it snowed? Was I late for school? As I eliminated the possibilities, the truth dawned, in all its ugly glory. It was my first shift as a Timing Official at the Goldfins Invitational Meet. My first time to don my white trousers, white top, and most importantly, my white knickers, which I had carefully laid out in the kitchen the night before. I had been warned by a number of people about the folly of wearing non-white underwear. There was no way I was going to get caught out in wet trousers and pink and purple undies. I wanted to get sick. I had given some serious consideration to wearing a white paper bag over my head (as a sort of Halloween tie-in), but I felt that it would be unfair to the kids.
I got up, silently tugged Christopher and Isabel out of their warm beds, and headed out into some seriously cold temperatures to the Shaw Centre. I was assigned to the girls’ tank as a Safety Marshal, which involved me walking up and down at the side of the pool, clutching a yellow float and making sure that nobody misbehaved or drowned. The heat was stifling. At 8.30am, we took our positions as Timing Officials, and the races began. I was partnered with Kim, a lovely Saskatonian lady who had spent time in the States on a swimming scholarship when she finished High School. I learnt how to use the timing plunger, keep track of the swimmers, tick off the heats and get very wet from the knees down. The heat got worse as the meet went on. As soon as it finished I legged it, grabbed my jacket, grabbed the kids and was just about to make the great escape, when I heard that Christopher had got into the backstroke finals and we had to be back at 3.30pm. I should have sewed lead into his trunks.
I rang Michael to tell him we were on the way. “Can you stop off and get some groceries on the way home?” he asked. “NO”. “Oh! Ok, so. Why not?” “I’m dressed in white”. “So?” “ALL. IN. WHITE. With wet, white trousers. And bare feet in flip-flops. In -11C”. “Okaaaay. See you at home. Darling”.
At 3.30pm I headed back with Christopher and his dry togs, towel, goggles, swim cap etc. My whites were in the dryer getting ready for Round 2 on Sunday morning. We arrived to find that his final isn’t until 7pm. I was hot and tired and somewhat cranky. I took out my book, but kept dozing off over it. He finished his warm-up and we sat at the top of the stands watching the races. Scott and Jenna and their two kids arrived to support him, and then James, Kelly, Jay, June and Eddie all appeared. Christopher was thrilled. He strutted off to race and managed to knock 9 seconds of his backstroke time. The rest of us cheered and thought we’d never get out to the cold outside. It must have been 1000C in the stands.
Sunday morning, I struggled out of bed, beat the other two out the door and we drove in a cold and grumpy silence to the pool. I was in the boys’ tank this time, and the swimmers ranged from tiny little boys who wriggled rather than swam up the pool, to tall, rangy 18 – 20 year olds, who hit the water with grim determination and lots of splashing. I was paired with Shawn, who was stone mad. We had great craic through the next three hours, through the heat, the tidal waves, the cookies, the iced water and the endless 400m races. The swimmers were hilarious. Some of them were so polite and sweet, and some were clearly in the throes of teenage-hood, all grunts and existential angst. The bigger lads were too cool for words, all coded jokes and chest-thumping displays of manhood. This was serious business for them, a chance to win medals and beat their competition times for the next meet. Some of them would swim in meets all over Canada. They thundered up and down the pool, all of their gangly awkwardness transformed into sleek swimming style.
Christopher and Isabel had a great time, apart from Isabel being disqualified on the backstroke turn and Christopher falling off the starting block before the buzzer in the 100m freestyle. They set great times and didn’t seem to notice anything too odd or horrendous about their mother being enveloped in white from neck to toe. Aren’t kids great?