I knew it as I dressed this morning: a telltale, blurry line of pale on paler. It was a demarcation of freckles next to the barest whisper of what could only be described as a suntan. It's not much, mind you; a 'tan' on a strawberry blonde can only be described as the barest blush of color on cream, but it is there, nevertheless.
This afternoon I came home with a sunburn, my skin smelling faintly of chlorine underneath the sunscreen tang.
You see, there's cute, and then there's a six-year-old learning to swim while wearing a shark mask and fins.
I'd meant to come home this morning, after staying away longer than I had intended, but somewhere along the way there was a declaration of swim time. Somewhere between the time Simon ran upstairs to find his "shark suit" and leaving, I blinked a few times and there I was, standing there in the swimsuit I'd brought for the hot tubbing that had never quite managed to happen. (The beach towel just appeared, honest, Officer! I don't know where it came from!)
I slathered on sunscreen and waded, shrieking and whimpering, into an unheated pool that was much colder than I anticipated. It got better with time, and with the satisfaction of watching both Mary and Simon whimper at the chill as well. Eventually, though, we were splashing, and Simon was getting his shark fins underneath him with the long, slow kicks Mary directed.
I wanted to fall asleep in the sun, but knew I dared not. Only pain and blistering lay down that path, and not the late lunch we craved.
When we drove home for cold pizza and chicken nuggets, I was reasonably sure. I patted my shoulders and saw white outlines against the pink. Not much of a burn, but a burn nevertheless—and a burn under correctly-applied SPF 50. Is it any wonder I complain that someday I will own a line of hosiery called 'Pasty White Girl,' intended for those as uncomplected as I am?
Simon is beginning those most halcyon of days: his first summer break. When I sat on the shallow steps at the lip of the pool, Simon would bound toward me and land in my lap with a splash, fully expecting a cuddle. I wrapped my arms around him and gave him the hug he sought, thinking that relativity is like this: he will remember summers like these as being the longest of his life, while we perceive their brevity in relation to the summers of our own childhood.
I am learning to play "aunt Amy," an auntie by association, not by blood. It doesn't matter, really; I sometimes think the title of 'auntie' is automatic reward for anyone brave enough to lie backwards on a beanbag while bouncing an energetic boy on your legs, a boy whose giggle-chant of "Monkey! Monkey! Monkey!" heralds the rib-crushing tacklehug you both know is only moments away.
"Don't break the Amy," indeed—for I am well past my warranty, and cannot be returned for a newer model.
I hear rumors that we might be swimming again tomorrow. SPF 3000, I think. Or a really big straw hat.