I daydream more than I’d like to admit. On any given day or minute, my children find me in the comfort of my dreams. Not anxiety-fueled circles that leave little room for present-day things, but the kind of daydream where we are here, and for a moment, my head is there, thinking of something simple and ridiculously blissful at once. The dreams oscillate between my room and some other room, a rearrangement of sorts. Or an action, something I can do here and now, but really can’t do (like lay on the couch and read under the sun). Other times, it’s something I can’t do right this minute, but refuse to give it up as a dream for the future.
Lately, the daydreaming has consisted mostly of swimming.
I’ve been here before. I have dreams of finding my way into the ocean—one foot in front of the other—last spring. And the spring before that, both taxing seasons of my life. Two springs ago, I was finishing up the components of Woman Of Color, highlighting chapters, and spending hours in the Abrams office, salivating over design concepts and the perfect kind of orange for page folds. Last spring, I was in the heat of my book tour, traveling with and without the kids. When I wasn’t with them or trying to work on something— but stretched nonetheless—I’d have similar daydreams. I realized that much of it was returning and releasing.
My eyes go low now, my back kind of slouches in a known forward motion. Maybe daydreaming is welcomed only because my brain tends to function high and fast, multiplying tasks and children (it seems), by the minute. Maybe, it is a function of my brain. A form of self-preservation. The back-stock if you will. “Up, she’s running low again, let’s go to the back and get that one thing, put it up in the shoot, download it for a good minute, she’ll be up and running again in no time,” I imagine the tiny dancing ladies in my brain saying.
I’ve been swimming so much lately, my ankles are all soggy, my hair is matted, my grin has that straight-out-the-water salted puff.
I swim with the kids, too. They’ve entered this once private space in my mind. Walking together on some familiar beach, R’s legs sink deeper into the sand, Oak howls with excitement, we dance at the crash of the water, and find ourselves swimming. Not too far from the shore, but far enough to float back and forth. Close enough to weave our fingers together in the sand and raise up when we’d like.
I don’t swim at the beach, though I can swim, so this consistent daydream is an abnormal one. But as we near the finality of our stay-at-home order here in the city, I realize the frequency of these swimming daydreams are in part due to the restrictions on our bodies, mine in particular. The kids likely experience in relation and proximity, physically and at times, emotionally. I hope that they feel slightly less restricted in their bodies (now) than I do.
Before we were asked to stay home to stop the spread, Oak hung low on the arm of a swimming coach at the pool of the YMCA. River bobbed in and out of the water, showing off skills she happened to learn last summer from a friend. I crouched down on the edge, egging them on when necessary, cheering so loudly, as if they’d won some sort of competition. In the room, I could count how many black kids were learning how to swim, mine included. A skill I’d not thought much of investing in, in such a way because, while I knew how to (though have regressed in some ways), committing to a swim class felt like more than I could handle. Not just in the calendar kind of commitment, but if I’d have the courage to assess my past thoughts, I’d say commitment to access a certain freedom and fear that was equal parts strange and powerful.
In his solo bath last night, Oak floated in the shallow grey water. His lips were pursed and his palms out, facing the ceiling. His curls tangled around the foam that drifted about. “I’m swimming mama!” he said. “ I know how to float now!” I looked at his tiny body in this rather small body of water. It took only but a minute to access that daydream of mine again, living alongside this similar reality, both a condensed version of that freedom, complication, and joy.
I’m not sure how we’ll make it to the beach, once they’re open. When we do, I wonder what they’ll do–our bodies. How our bodies will move. How we’ll swim. Black kids swimming, me included. The freedom and joy, a dangerous feeling, a day dream that is too much for some to swallow whole.
(photo by Mary Ellen Mark )