My mother, in addition to being just plain smart about lots of things, including how to handle my Dad’s whims, was also very handy. She had painted all the rooms in the house, replaced panes of glass, and could do a rewiring job if necessary. She could hook rugs and was also a darned good cook. The one thing she had never mastered was sewing. My grandmother, whom we called Memmere, was a whiz with the needle and had made her grandchildren’s clothes for years, but this was something Mom had avoided.
One summer, she decided to make me a bathing suit. A bathing suit seemed like an easy place to start. It was a cotton knit affair, which she made because I’d grown up and out so quickly in the past year that my old suits had become dangerously revealing. What Mom didn’t recognize is that with the development of breasts, I’d become hideously self-conscious.
One of the things I did very well at the pool where I swam was swim fast, really fast. Technique was not my forte yet, but I was taller and stronger than my teammates, and I could power my way to the end of the pool quicker than anyone in my age group. The bathing suit was a lovely color blue, and I decided to wear it at a swim meeting, the day after it was completed. A lot of the girls were wearing two piece suits and I wanted to be fashionable as well as fast.
I lined up as always at the deep end of the pool for the start of the freestyle race, proudly sporting the newly constructed bathing suit. It occurred to me, rather belatedly, that unlike my old suits, this one had not been tested for its swim-worthiness, let alone its ability to stay in place during a racing dive.
At the sound of the gun, I hit the water in a flat, extended position and began to swim mightily, pulling out to an easy lead by half the length of the pool. Unfortunately, I discovered at that half the length, I had nothing around my chest. The ties to the bra of the suit had pulled out, and the top of the suit was now wrapped around my waist. I continued swimming for a few strokes, then stopped and pulled up my top, while spectators looked on. Instant, grinding mortification. I don’t remember how I managed to get to out of the pool, but it was certainly without even a modicum of dignity.
I never wore that bathing suit again, and my mother never asked why. As I grew older and swam more seriously, the focus of what I wore became just as serious and I never, ever wore a new suit for a race, not once.