Seeing in New Places

Elaine. Tahiti. January, 2004.

Slipping Free of Fear

My daughter Elaine and her husband Rob, who recently moved to Hawaii, just completed their SCUBA certifications. She posted yesterday on Facebook:

I’m officially a certified open water scuba diver!! Aaaaaand I swam with THREE sea turtles and a shark today. So awesome.

This news makes me tingle with joy for them–for her. Because if things had gone just a bit differently, she might not have sought this adventure.

My mother was afraid of the water. She never learned to swim, wasn’t comfortable putting her face in the water. Determined not to pass her fear on to her children, she carted my siblings and me off to swimming lessons at the Bloomington Plunge. On Saturdays, my parents drove an hour to take us to the ocean, where Dad would take my sister and me far, far out into the Pacific, while Mom sat on a blanket in the sand.

I was never afraid in the water. I was sure my father could swim all the way to Japan. And he always had one strong hand on me as we swam in the ocean. 

I did not, however, develop a taste for breathing under water. Even a year spent living in Polynesia didn’t tempt me: it felt creepy to fill my lungs while immersed, so I never took up snorkeling. 

Elaine grew up with swimming pools and frequent trips to the beach in San Diego. She learned to swim as she learned to walk, it seems.

And in Polynesia, Elaine wanted to snorkel. She’d return to the beach, warm saltwater streaming from her skin, and tell me about life under the sea.

“Mom! I saw black, spiny urchins and red fish and blue fish and this big head of coral with anemones covering it! I saw starfish!” 

I’d listen to her Seussesque travelogue of her visit underwater, her time in an alien realm, and I’d marvel. Truth is, I could walk the reef in Polynesia and see those same creatures. 

A ripple in the water would distort my view of them, but I could see them.

Now she’s an adult and she’s learned to go deeper, to swim down deep with her own atmosphere strapped to her back. She is seeing things I’ll never see.

My mother refused to carve her fear of water into my DNA, where I could pass it on to my own child. 

Two generations later, my daughter has a clear view of things that I could see only as wrinkled glimpses through a rippling sunlit surface, if at all. 

She’ll swim and she’ll dive and she’ll surface and tell me what she’s seen. And I’ll listen and I’ll marvel and I’ll wonder what else has been coded into her heart. 

2 I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, 3 Which we have heard and known, And our fathers have told us. 4 We will not conceal them from their children, But tell to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done. 

Psalm 78: 2-4 (NASB)


  1. Lovely story, an excellent lesson on how to bring up children. Good for you!

    This blog post could serve as a vignette in your memoir. The Psalm 78 verse you quoted is one that I use in my classes. 🙂

    Have a good day, Sheila, and a nice weekend!


  2. Linda, thanks.

    My mother was fearless (except for swimming–during her childhood, polio kept lots of people away from public pools. So she never learned). What good things I know about rearing children, I learned from her.

  3. Your boldness and courage has also been passed on as to things of the Spirit. Your daughter is delving deeper into God and teaching her children to seek after the Lord as well. May we ever dive into his presence and enjoy the deep things of God.

  4. Bee-you-tee-ful! 🙂

  5. 🙂

  6. Sandra Heska King

    My husband and I learned to snorkle in the Virgin Islands. I wasn't too keen on the salt waves invading my atmosphere. But I loved what I could see by going deep.

  7. I'll bet, Sandy! I have a friend who is an underwater photographer.

    There's some amazing stuff down there. Waaaaaaaaaaaaay down there.