Forrest is the name of a boy about 29 inches tall, one of 14 like-sized children in the first day of the first swimming class I taught at East End pool in Elmhurst, Illinois in 1967. I remember Forest best because he had more sense in his 5 years than I had absorbed in 15.
Confident for no other reason than being certified and holding a whistle, I launched my 14 onto kickboards across the pool, like paper sailboats on a pond. The idea was they hang onto the styrofoam floatee thing, flippity-flop their feet, and motorize themselves to the end of the pool. I imagined them giddy with success when they reached the end of the pool. I did NOT imagine what would happen if they let go of their kickboards. I didn’t do the math that clearly indicates 29 inches of child in 36 inches of water is a child UNDER water.
Forrest for reasons unexplained let go of his kickboard and sunk, bobbed up, sunk, bobbed up. What is of grave significance is I didn’t notice for several seconds that a kickboard was without a captain. When I did notice, that moment was, is, and will forever be FREEZE-FRAMED in me. WHERE is the child?
Hero that he remains to me for all eternity, Forrest figured out that if he stood stretched to tiptoe and absolutely motionless, he could take in air. It’s tough to convey this in words but I have never before or since witnessed a child with the self possession of Forrest. He chose utter calm in a situation warranting panic.
His choice saved him. I retrieved him but he had saved himself. He also had saved me.