Courtesy of Cara Pestorius
At first I thought it would be about the towels. No more soggy wet pool towels lining the banister in the upstairs hallway. Or the free weekends. No more gorgeous three-day weekends spent indoors at the Rutgers Sonny Werblin Pool. But ultimately, it was about the food.
I’m misting up in the cereal aisle when I realize I don’t need to buy eight boxes; I leave with none. Instead, I walk over to the milk, select a teensy half gallon, and cry some more. I am thinking about the grocery runs when I had three swimmers in the house. The girls would make these elaborate secret swimmer bags during the high school season. I’d carefully read the lists of preferences, and stockpile the pantry with Cool Blue Gatorade, Savory Bold Chex Mix, and PowerBar Gel Blasts. I’d also gather nail polish, lip gloss, colorful socks, and hair ties. The girls would come home from the pasta parties, decorate bags, draw cartoons, and overstuff bags with their secret swimmers’ favorites.
My youngest swimmer is a boy, and although he never traded secret swimmer bags, he eats like a champ. But, he’s left my nest, and he’s not here to tidily polish off the eight boxes of cereal I did not buy today.
Last year, on double session days, I’d pack breakfast burritos to follow morning practice, sandwiches and rainbow-colored veggies for midday, then more snacks to fuel the after school practice. Dinners were huge and healthy plates; I’d look forward to feeding my hungry swimmers the minute they walked through the door. I once coined a phrase; it’s my six word story: I Iike to feed my people.
Now that no swimmers occupy my nest, I wonder how I’ll resolve this void. As a college consultant, I work with students on their essays, and we often tie them up in a neat little bow. But I can’t find the epiphany or the moral to my sad little story.
My youngest is swimming for Brown University, and I wonder if he will mind if I show up for every single swim meet. He’s been patient with all my texts; he responds to each and every heart emoji I send. My husband’s a swimmer too. He still swims in the morning and coaches in the evening. I know he feels the void too, but I suspect his transition doesn’t feel as rocky as mine.
When my girls went off to college, I ached for them too. Yet there is something about sending off your last; it’s the end of an era. Towards the end of the long course season, another mom and I kept identifying our lasts: this is our last meet at Rutgers, this is our last YMCA Nationals, this is our last team banquet.
I don’t have a neat little bow for this final paragraph, but I’m a glass-half-full girl. I got to watch my kids race, win medals, and bond with their teammates. I got to host pasta parties, foosball tournaments, and movie mornings during long course. I got to see my son win the mile at Nationals. I may have ushered out an era, but I won’t go down without a fight; I am a member of a special diehard breed. Once a swim mom, always a swim mom.
About Cara Pestorius
Cara Pestorius is a college consultant and teacher. Her three children swam for Bridgewater-Raritan High School, and two went on to swim in college. She’s taken a few swim meet selfies over the years; that’s her on the right with fellow Somerset Valley YMCA moms at Speedo Junior Nationals, Columbus, OH.