Back when we were divorced and poor, the next hardest thing after putting food on the table and making the mortgage payment was child care. I had two daughters and she had a son, younger than my two. They went down in stepping stones, Beth 7, Shelly 5, Jimmy 3. We became experts at finding summer camps, Y programs, after school programs, and getting our kids booked in before the available places were filled.
The year these three musketeers were 10, 8 and 6 we enrolled them in a swimming program at the Y. It was an eight or ten week program and I have no idea what they were supposed to learn. Carol or I would pick them up when the class was done and from the back seat the three would excitedly discuss the exhibition they were practicing for the parents at the end of the course.
On the appointed afternoon Carol and I were dutifully seated in the hot and steamy bleachers of the pool room, waiting for the show. The tadpoles and minnows showed off their skills and then the advanced group came out. In the line, walking toward the deep end of the pool, were Beth, Shelly and Jimmy. Down the long end of the pool, turn the corner of the shorter end, stopping at the high diving board.
Carol and I were reasonably distraught. Jimmy was only six. What was he doing there??!! All the children went up the ladder, made their dives. Up went Jimmy, made his dive. We watched with mingled terror and admiration as that little you know what went through the entire program with children up to twice his age, demonstrating diving and swimming.
The first thing we asked him, after the program: how did you get in that group? “I went with Beth and Shelly.” Yep, when the instructor said everyone eight or older go there, everyone under eight go to the other end of the pool, Jimmy made the instant decision to stick with the only people he knew. He said he was eight and Beth and Shelly vouched for him. The rest was up to Jimmy, and he did it.
Jimmy’s a Marine. Special Forces. Underwater stuff. He retires this year.
Beth, Jimmy and Shelly on vacation with Mom in 1976. So, they would be 11, 9 and 7.