Posted by: Harry | February 23, 2010


There was a moment at the resort in San Diego, where Simone was tearing it up on the kiddie water slide–fearless in her mimicry of bigger kids sliding backwards or head-first. One of those “oh shit” moments that makes the world slow down like those terrible movies with Nicholas Cage.

Earlier on in the afternoon an older girl, Steffie, had taken Simone under her wing. She helped her with the concrete steps leading to the slide (even though it wasn’t needed), she made sure the older boys didn’t budge in front and leave Simone standing nervously waiting for her turn. It was all rather lovely–Simone constantly telling us that Steffie was her “good friend” and trying to hold her hand at every turn.

At the base of the slide, a host of parents jostled into position to catch their toddlers when their turns were up. A bit of a gong show, but funny. Amidst the shuffle, conversation and comparisons. Cursory questions of age, of ability, compliments. Casual conversation. I noted that Simone was third in line and the kid at the front was having second thoughts.

Turning to the side for a moment, I chatted with another Dad about something trivial–something I cannot remember. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Simone half way down the slide, arms wide, and before I could spin and catch her she was in the pool, arms wheeling under the water which churned opaque from the water pouring off the slide. Then everything got really slow. I reached madly underneath it all, trying to find a limb. My hand found something; an arm. I hoisted up and Simone came out like a breach baby, spluttering and looking wild.

No crying from her. But those wild eyes were surprised, confused even. The strangeness of being under the water for so long, the innate knowledge of having to hold her breath and wait. Crazy stuff.

She’s made no mention of it since, and I doubt it had any lasting effect. But what a moment. The way the heart hammers.



  1. Oh MY word! How scary. I would have left the pool after that. Always harder on the parent eh? Sheesh, it made my heart beat fast.

  2. I sat with her and apologized for not seeing her quickly enough, gave her a hug, and asked her if she was okay.

    She said yup and went straight back to the slide.

  3. Something similar happened to me at swimming lessons. I had told Alexander, that when he jumps in off the edge of the pool into the water, he should bend his knees so that he can jump further. Well, one of the times (just so happened I looked away at that second), he bent down, way down… lost his balance and dove head first into the water. I looked up to the edge of the pool and Alexander was gone. He wasn’t on the edge, he must be somewhere in the water, but I couldn’t see him. At that moment, my heart stopped and everything went into slow motion. I remember using my foot to find him and ‘lift’ him up into my arms. He had that wide-eyed-terrified expression. and said ”I not like that so very much”. I assured him that I didn’t like it either and that I would try to keep a better eye on him next time. By the end of the lesson he was jumping in off the edge again. Fhew!

  4. My heart still skips a beat when I remember Ethan falling into a pond at a friend’s house last summer and through his gasping breaths saying, “I need help!” to Nate, his friend. Felt like terrible parents who should’ve been there in that instance and missed the opportunity. But no harm done. He just said he’d be more careful and not try and get the cars out of the pond that Nate threw in anymore. Ethan just thought he was being helpful.
    Heart wrenching.

  5. I forgot to mention that David was there in a flash to help him. Was only seconds that he was down. And the pond was super shallow, but we all know that shallow is just as dangerous.

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