It was beautiful, really. I am certain that not all inner struggles will resolve so neatly. But one day at swimming lessons (the second-last class), my brave little girl stopped panicking and started paddling.
I was out on the playground with my son, whose lessons come after hers. We’d relegated my husband to bleacher-moral-support duty, with his swimming background and his calmness and his promises to text me every few minutes with updates. But my phone had stopped working, so it wasn’t until I stepped into the pool area that I saw her.
On her own.
She paddled out to her floatie toy, then threw it further and retrieved it again, circling the pool in wide, happy arcs like a doodling pen. Her eyes were lit up with pride and we both kept smiling. My cheesy thumbs-ups got a little out of control and I think at least once I trumped them by throwing a fist in the air. (Looking back, I feel like I should probably be embarrassed, but I’m just glad that I didn’t actually open my mouth and yell, “Boom! That’s my girl!” like I was thinking inside.)
She got out and my husband and I covered her with accolades and a towel and wrapped arms around her in big drippy chlorinated hugs. Then she and I headed quickly into the locker room because we had business to take care of.
We had a bridge to climb.
We stopped in front of it so I could snap a couple photos, and she posed with her fists raised in front of her like a boxer. And then she raced off. She’s fast. I ran after, up the ramp with stairs spread out like platforms. At the top, she ran out into the middle and our hair blew around us and we shouted victoriously just as I’d imagined. She did a little dance, hips wiggling in the mismatched clothes she picked out, hair damp and tousled and wild. And then she went running to the end, and down the other side, and then back up again. Her sneakers pounded on the rusty metal, diamond-shaped openings framing the blur of cars below.
On the way down, she tripped and fell hard onto one of the platforms. And then got up, brushed it off, and challenged me to race across the field to the playground.
I was hot and sweaty. Out of breath and out of shape. I was wearing sandals that were not good for running. But I kicked them off and ran anyway, because her face lit up with shrieks of laughter.
Because every victory needs a victory lap.
And because, boom. That’s my girl.