I've recently had the pleasure of exchanging e-mails with a first cousin whom I hadn't heard from in about 49 years. Of all the cousins on my dad's side, she's the one closest in age to me, and I remember how much fun we had playing together as children, before my family moved out of state.
One of the things my cousin mentioned in her e-mail is how tall and slim I used to be. "Skinny" is a more accurate word. I reached my full height at age 12, and it took about four more years for me to fill out enough to catch up with it. In this photo, I'm the tall girl with the long, twiglike arm, 14 years old, halfway through the filling out process, and on my first ever trip to the beach.
Anyway, discussing my formerly skinny self made me think of one of my most embarrassing moments, which happened at the swimming pool at Fassnight Park in Springfield, Missouri, the summer I was 12. Because of the recent growth spurt I'd had, my old bathing suit didn't fit anymore, so Mother suggested I wear one of hers. It was a pretty, shrimp-pink suit, and it fit well except in the chest area. In that area, it puckered and made my lack of anything resembling breasts all the more obvious.
I was embarrassed to go to the pool like that, so at the last minute I reached into my sock drawer, pulled out a pair of little brown anklets, and tucked one neatly folded sock in each side of the bathing suit top. Turning from side to side in front of the mirror, I satisfied myself that the socks weren't detectable, then threw a blouse on over the bathing suit so Mother wouldn't notice what I had done.
I should also mention that I never really learned to swim. My swimming pool activity basically consisted of entering the pool at the shallow end and staying cool by walking leisurely toward the rope that marked the beginning of the deep end, then going back and forth until it was time to go home.
On that day, I made one trip to the rope, where the water was up to my neck, then turned around and started back. When the water level was about at my waist, I glanced down and nearly died as I saw two dark blobs splashed randomly on my abdomen, shining like beacons through the wet (and now semi-transparent) pink bathing suit. I crossed my arms over my belly, whirled around and walked as fast as I could back to the rope, then leaned into the side of the pool, hunched over, and fished out the socks.
I probably should have dropped the socks on the spot, but instead, I wadded them up, one in each fist, and carried them under the water for a few minutes while I tried to decide what to do. Fortunately, a woman who had been sitting on a towel right at the edge of the pool chose that moment to get in the water, and as she moved away from the poolside, I made a beeline for it and stuffed my socks under her towel. I still remember watching her later as she picked up the towel, looked around in confusion, and said to nobody in particular, "Heh-heh, looks like somebody lost their socks."
For the rest of the afternoon, I sat on the bottom of the pool at a corner of the shallow end, longing to go home, and very grateful that all the little-bitty kids crowded into that end of the pool wouldn't pay attention to my puckered bathing suit top.