Good Morning to What Went Away: A reflection by Menlo Park author/chef Donia Bijan

by Donia Bijan on April 17, 2020

Did we ever think it would last this long? I don’t mean the lockdown. I mean the swimming. It was an unlikely premise: a pool, a dedicated coach, 50, maybe 60 swimmers, all rising before dawn (some earlier still to pull the covers) to start the day at 5:45. Splash. Nineteen years now. For many, even longer.

My eyebrows have grown back. My head doesn’t fall into my soup by 7:00 pm. The whiff of chlorine on my skin is gone. So is the day-long delicious ache in my limbs. My suit hangs lonely on a hook in the bathroom. Sometimes I sniff it for a chlorine fix. How long can I hold my breath out of water?

It was the best way to begin a day. A happy day was sure to follow. In the water we didn’t talk. Talk and you lose count, miss the interval, forget the set. At the wall, we alighted one by one like crows, squawked, took a breath and pushed off again in busy flight.

Every morning we saw the sun rise, cast purple before orange before blue. Someone pointed and we looked up, but not for long. On our backs, we flapped our arms and watched the early birds glide above us. Back then, there were airplanes in the sky. And the lone figure of our coach on deck with his clipboard, in the first light, in the rain, in freezing temperatures. Who knew what he wrote? We saw you, Coach. We saw you watching us.

Afterwards, in the showers, there was lightness to our voices. Did you see? Have you heard? How’s your mom? You want this shower? How’s your shoulder? Always, the shoulder. Oh, my friends, I miss the grace of our casual talk. Sometimes we hugged each other naked, still wet — because someone’s husband was sick, because someone was born, because someone came home. Sometimes we sang happy birthday to a friend in her birthday suit. Back then, we sometimes ate breakfast together. Breakfast. Together. So many good mornings.

Who knew this too couldn’t last?

Donia Bijan is the author of The Last Days of Cafe Leila 



Mani Farhadi April 18, 2020 at 10:24 am

Donia, you’ve captured the loss of treasured moments and meaningful interactions. In a simple way, you’ve described the angst of our current situation. Hoping these days will soon pass!

carol April 18, 2020 at 3:21 pm

Thank you, Donia, for your words. A gentle reflection on life as we knew it a short time ago.

Julianne Kanzaki April 18, 2020 at 4:59 pm

Such a beautiful, well-written testimony to what all of us fellow swimmers miss. Thank you for capturing the essence of what it means to be a morning swimmer- the ridiculously early wake-up calls rewarded by painted sunrises, the concentration during sets, and the comradery in the locker room. Loved this piece of writing from the bottom of my heart, and can’t wait to be back in the pool soon!

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