I was swimming yesterday with the same girl from my previous post. Let’s call her Ruby!
First we threw in a bunch of toys. Foamy pool noodles, diving pucks, and two rubbery plastic fish that swim gently through the water.
She went after one of these with a shoelace, shouting “here, Fish! It’s fish for dinner!”
Ruby likes to travel, so we held onto armfuls of noodles and let ourselves be blown in circles by the underwater jets. Sometimes the noodles were horses we rode, sometimes surfboards. We were “back at home”, taking a break, when a plastic swimming fish nudged her arm. She held it out to me, giggling.
“Oh, thank you,” I said as it twitched and hummed in my hand. I bit it, very delicately, on the edge of its rubbery fin. She laughed and splashed her head back into the water.
“Noooooooo,” she said. “It’s not FOOD.”
“Ah,” I replied Then, to the fish, I said “is that true? You’re not food?” I held the fish up to my ear and shook my head. Ruby was watching me carefully, her mouth open and twitching.
“He doesn’t have much to say,” I told her. “Just rrrrrrrrrrrr.” I blew out my lips in an impersonation of his mechanical whirr. She looked confused and reached out for the fish. Holding it to her ear she listened, very carefully.
“Oh,” she said. “I get it. We’re PRETENDING.”
Later, the shallow end of the pool had become the scene for Space Diving School.
“You be the teacher,” she told me. “And you throw these things into the water and I get them, and you tell me I did well.”
“Okay,” I said. After a few rounds of this, she told me it was time to swap roles.
“NOW,” she said, clapping her wet hands together. “It’s time for CLASS.”
And I’ll be damned if she wasn’t using a British accent.
The space diving school class grew and grew, and the invisible children (Audrey, Ben, Tinkerbell, and the famous Sarah making a surprise appearance) took turns jumping from the side of the pool into the water.
“GO,” said Ruby. She slapped her hand on the surface of the water, explaining the first time that “this was them jumping in. NEXT!”
When it was time to jump in pairs, Ruby walked up to the edge, curling her toes around the damp cement. With one hand she checked her goggles were in place and with the other she reached out to hold a hand-sized piece of air.
“That was great!” I said, after she’d jumped in.
“I know,” she said. “We all did really well. We were so good that it’s Tinkerbell’s birthday now and we’re having cake.”
“Oooh,” I said. “I love cake. What kind of cake are we having?”
“It’s space diving school,” she reminded me. “So we’re having underwater fruitcake!”
“Yes, and it’s a surprise, so nobody tell Tinkerbell!” She shook her finger at each of us, rotating in the warm water.
And none of us did.