To enjoy a state-of-the-art library and a huge tranquil park seemed satisfactory enough for a newcomer to this city, but I soon discovered another one-of-a kind facility — the indoor Olympic Swimming Pool and Fitness center. When I was informed that in 1984, the Olympic Game swimmers practiced here, I felt the pride of being a part of a world class phenomenon. At the edge of the pool, there was a high diving board. It almost reached the high ceiling and looked intimidating. The fancy pool brought my memory back to the days when I watched the games on TV at a flat in Taipei, and how I marveled at the athletes’ amazing speed and power. Excitedly, I enrolled Anelise into the beginner class.

I had a phobia of deep water myself, so I could imagine how water could be as scary as a monster to a child. Anelise had never swum before; in fact, she couldn’t take a overhead shower in fear of water hurting her eyes. To accommodate her, I had always skillfully shampooed her hair, making sure her face was dry throughout. Now, I was determined to get her ready for the lesson. It was time to quit baby baths! I started to train her: I would spray water on her face and dip her face into water in a basin. I tried to get her to take overhead showers in a baby shower cap. Nothing worked. She screamed, fought, and cried. Taking a shower became our nightmares. Our prelude lessons failed, but the real lesson couldn’t wait.

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The first class went like this: the coach ordered ten little kids to put on lifejackets and walked them toward the diving board. All the moms sat on the bleachers, watching and smiling. On my face there was a smile, but in my mind I worried about why they needed lifejackets. “It’s for safety, because they are all first time swimmers,” I explained to myself. These little puff-chested, frog-like kids quickly tip-toed to the other end of the pool, their bodies shaking from the cold. They passed the low diving board and kept going. When they reached the high diving board, the coach yelled, “Stop!” He pointed to the sky-high board and yelled again, with a wide smile, “Let’s go up there!” The kids erupted in fearful high pitched screaming. My head froze for some seconds in horror. “No! You can’t make her do this!” I screamed in my mind.

I ran to the coach. “Hey, coach, excuse me! I…, I am…. I…,” I almost choked while stuttering through my poor spoken English. “My daughter, she can’t swim! She can’t go up there!” Finally I managed to complete my words. “Oh, don’t worry! She will be fine with the jacket.” The young man smiled at me indifferently. “No, no, no! She can’t go! It is terrible!” I felt tears fill my eyes, although I was still smiling. “It will be okay! No worries!” He ignored me and turned around, yelling, “Let’s go up there! One after another!” The kids stepped up to the stairs in file. Some of them couldn’t wait and rushed up, dropping and making big splashes with excited screams. Another coach scooped them up out of the pool with a long pole. They were shaking heavily but laughing hard. It seemed fun and fine, I told myself. Anelise was the last one in the row. She was shaking and her face was stern. I knew she was terrified, but she was always obedient to the rules. I knew she was restraining her fear, telling herself not to cry or run away in protest. I had an urge to pull her out and walk away, but with a few seconds of internal struggling, I stepped back, with tears in my eyes.

Now it was her turn to go up. She went up slowly, trembling. Finally, she reached the edge of the diving board. She couldn’t jump. The coach came up behind her and bent down to encourage her. There was no response from Anelise. They were up there for a long time. It was a stand off. Tears kept coming out of my eyes. I wanted to yell to the coach, “Let her come down here! Ler her go!” but my throat was tight. Suddenly, the coach gave her a push. Like a stone, she dropped into the water with a big splash. I was shocked. I ran to the side of the pool, Anelise shot up on the surface of the water, floating. She touched the pole extended to her and grabbed it. Up on the ground, smiling despite shaking, she was safe!

The swimming lessons kept going for some weeks and Anelise gradually got used to water. Amazingly, she started enjoying jumping off the diving board. Anelise eventually swam for her school team from fifth grade until high school and competed in high school water polo. From this experience, I realized: all difficulties can be overcome.


那設備高檔的圖書館和寬廣寧靜的公園已經讓我這個新居民感到驚喜萬分了,但不久後我又發現了一個更令人興奮的公共場所,那就是喜瑞都市的市立游泳池和健身館。當我得知這個泳池是為了1984年洛杉磯奧運興建以供選手練習使用的,我更是以能夠置身於一個世界級的設施中感到榮耀。池邊有一個很高的跳水台,它高聳而上,看來很嚇人。這泳池讓我回想起當年住在台北的公寓裡,沈迷著電視的奧運轉播,為泳將們的勁速比賽加油,為他們不斷地打破紀錄而歡呼的情景。一聞知他們開著游泳班,我馬上就為怡安報名上課了。

我自己是個患有深水恐懼症的人,所以很能夠了解孩子們怕水如猛獸的心結。怡安從來沒下過泳池游過泳,更糟的是,她怕水到連洗澡都不能讓水碰到她的臉。她這時已經五歲了,我練就了一個方法,為她洗頭髮時,還能保証水不會沖到她的眼睛裡。為她報名上課後,我決心把這套娃娃澡廢除掉,開始做學前操訓。第一步,拿水往她臉上灑,叫她把臉放到水盆裡。第二步,強迫她沖澡,先戴上一頂娃娃沖澡帽以防水往臉上流。這些招數全無效,她以哭叫反抗。這段時間,洗澡變成我們兩人的惡夢。這學前班完全失敗了,但是正規班可等不得的。

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第一堂課是這麽個上法:課一開始,那個年輕的教練大聲命令這十個小朋友把救生背心穿上,領著他們往跳水台走去。所有的媽媽們都坐在看台上微笑著看著,而我心裡納悶著,為什麼要穿上救生衣?「為了安全吧,都是一群小旱娃娃!」我給自己一個解釋。這組小毛頭孩子個個像隻膨胸鼓腹的小青蛙,蹦著跳著,顫抖著小身子,跟著教練往前走。經過了低跳水台,他們繼續往前走,到了那座高入屋頂的跳台前,教練站定了,回身大吼:「停下來!」他往那高台一指,得意地笑著宣告:「我們要上那兒去!」只聽見娃兒們尖叫起來:「No, no!」我的頭好像凍麻了幾秒鐘,嚇著了。「不行啊!你可不能逼我女兒做這事啊!」我心裡叫了起來。

我衝到教練面前,張口說話:「教練,對不起,我….,我 女兒不會游泳,不能上去…」英文不好,結結巴巴,找不到英文字眼來表達我的意思。好不容易支離破碎地講完了,教練卻一付毫不在乎的樣子,只說:「沒關係,他們都穿著救生衣!不必擔心!」我心裡可急了,暗叫著,不行,不行,這太可怕了!我雖然還露著微笑,卻可以感到眼睛裡充滿了淚水。那教練不管我,回過身去,大叫:「拍成一列,一個一個往上去!」孩子們一一爬上樓梯,膽子大的迫不及待地帶頭去,往下一跳,撲通湃啦,濺出白閃閃的大水花。他們興奮尖叫,好不樂乎。池旁有個教練拿著一根長棍,把落水的娃娃們撈了,帶到池邊。那些娃們一上來,牙齒雙腿都打顫,臉上卻笑得開心。好像很好玩啊,應該沒事吧!我安慰自己。怡安落在最後一個,她臉色沈重,憂心忡忡,身體顫抖著。她自小就是個守規矩的孩子,我了解她正在極力忍耐著她的恐懼感,控制自己不要哭叫或跑走。我很想上前去把她拉出來,一走了之,但是我也忍住了,往後退,只感到淚水在眼裡打轉。

終於輪到她上去了。她步步艱難地爬上樓梯,戰戰兢兢地總算走到了跳板的邊緣。在那兒站了好久,她沒法跳下去。那教練彎著腰直勸著她,但怡安就是沒反應。他們僵在上頭好長的時間,我的淚水流不停,我心裡叫著:「放了她,讓她下來吧!」但是我的喉嚨很緊。突然,那教練推了她一把,她像一顆石頭墜入水裡,嘩啦一聲,水花四濺。我嚇壞了,衝到池邊,卻見她已經浮到水面,漂浮著,被教練導向池邊。爬出池子,她微笑著。啊!安全過關!

於是這游泳課持續了數個禮拜,怡安終於熟悉了水性,更欣慰的是她也喜歡上跳水了。這個可怕的學習經驗卻開啟了她多年的游泳歷史,她從五年級開始到高中都是游泳隊的成員,還參加高中的水球隊,多年比賽,拿了許多獎盃。從這段經驗,我了解到,困難終究是可以克服的。

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