So, before Eid, Mr. Mostafa and I were trying to decide how we should celebrate. There were a few options on the table, but quite frankly, all I really wanted was a bath.
I am a person who loves baths. I can easily spend hours in a bubble bath with a book and a snack. (Yeah, really weird for a woman in her early 30s, I know. But I’ve always been this way. I’m pretty sure I spent half my teenage years with wrinkly toes as a result of my endless hours spent in a bathtub reading back issues of Shutterbug and Seventeen.) However, there are no bathtubs in our house, only showers. So for my Eid celebration, all I wanted to do was check into a nice hotel in Riyadh, order room service, and take a bath. And read in said bath.
We tossed around ideas. In the end, though, we settled on a plan that gave us much more enjoyment than one night at the Four Seasons. We bought a swimming pool.
We had long been discussing the idea of a kiddie pool for Lavender, but we ended up bringing home a pool big enough for us to enjoy, as well. It’s round, about ten feet across, and around two and a half feet deep. Definitely not a kiddie pool, but not anything you can race in, either. Still, we were thrilled with our purchase. We set it up on the roof, just outside of our apartment door.
This is how it started.
Neither of us had any experience in above-ground pool installation (or, you know, any kind of pool installation), so we bungled it the first time we tried to set it up. We didn’t smooth out the wrinkles in the bottom of the pool enough before we started filling it. We just kind of figured that the pressure of the water would smooth out the wrinkles as the pool filled (hey, neither of us ever claimed to be physicists), and we were both kind of hesitant to hop in and start smoothing for fear we would somehow puncture it.
So at first, our pool was maybe two feet deep. Maybe. And it was full of wrinkles at the bottom, which felt weird. And it was uneven.
But by God, we had a pool.
I was thrilled, because I love to swim, and I seriously hadn’t been swimming for at least four years. Four years! I don’t know how I went that long without swimming, but I did. It was mainly because I didn’t really have time or easy access to a pool in those years. Plus, even if I did, I didn’t really feel comfortable swimming in front of people in a typical bathing suit (not that I ever really did past the age of 12, honestly). And there aren’t many places in the States where you can wear a burkini without being laughed out of the pool enclosure (I might have even chosen to wear one before I became Muslim if it had been an option, like Nigella Lawson, because there are super cute ones, and they have the added bonus of excellent sun protection. Take that, ethnocentric witches of Sex & the City 2 who mercilessly mocked a woman wearing a burkini in that movie–you are not the same characters I knew and loved from the series), so I just didn’t go swimming. Which made me sad, because as I said, I love swimming.
I love it.
But I guess I had kind of forgotten how much I loved it until I got into our rooftop pool, because when my face hit the water, I was smacked with the realization of how much I had missed this. The water wasn’t deep and there wasn’t really a lot of room to actually swim, but I sure did my best. I floated face-up. I floated face-down (in what, as I explained to Mr. Mostafa, we referred to as “the dead man’s float” as kids). I swam in tight circles. I suited Lavender up in her Winnie the Pooh swimsuit and let her play in the water, too.
The next day, we went to SACO and I got a pair of goggles, a pair of noseplugs, and a swim cap. When I got home and plunged into the pool with all of my swimmer gear on, Mr. Mostafa initially laughed at me. But then he said, “Let me try those.”
I handed him my goggles and my noseplugs. He gave them a test drive, and although the goggles were much too small and squished his eyes, he was highly impressed.
See, Mr. Mostafa never learned how to swim as a kid. He went to pools occasionally with his family, but he just never learned to really swim. He had never worn noseplugs until he tried on mine. Meanwhile, I spent at least two days a week at the West Plains city pool every summer as a kid. (I can still taste the sour lollipops that I used to always buy from the vending machines there…50 cents for three.) I’m pretty sure there were summers that I had a tan line on my nose from my noseplugs.
That sounds like a good band name…Noseplug Tan Lines.
Anyway, once Mr. Mostafa discovered the miracle(s) of goggles and noseplugs, he became obsessed with learning to swim. As he put it, “I never wanted to learn how to swim because I always ended up getting water up my nose. How did I not know that noseplugs existed before?!” We went back to SACO and bought him his own swim gear, including goggles that fit him correctly.
After that, he spent hours in the pool, practicing floating. He then moved on to trying out different swimming techniques. Every few minutes, he would yell, “Honey, watch me!” Then he would demonstrate his latest swimming skill, pop up out of the water, and say, “Did you see me? Did I swim? I can swim!”
Indeed, he is a swimmer. I’m so proud.
Of course, now he wants to work on swimming in deeper water, and he wants to learn to “stand in the water” (i.e., tread water). He’s determined to be able to go swimming with Lavender when she is old enough. He’s such a great daddy.
I, meanwhile, am determined to find a swimming pool in Riyadh where I can swim laps for exercise. Maybe even do water aerobics with little old ladies, while wearing an awesome swim cap that helps me blend in. Wouldn’t that be so much fun?
Yes, but honestly, I’ll settle for laps. And meanwhile, I’m savoring my time in our rooftop pool, with Lavender splashing in my arms and Saleh Phelps (as he is now known around our apartment) swimming past us. Finally, our summers will really feel like summers. Who cares that technically, summer is almost over? This is Saudi Arabia, man. Most of our year is swimming weather.