It feels like the last truly summery day of summer and I suggest a post-dinner trip to the aquatic center. Once we arrive, it’s clear that every other family within a 20-mile radius has had the same idea: the kiddie pool teems with froth and squeals, splashes and shrieks.

Most of the parents lounge poolside, chatting with one another while their older children attack each other in the water. JB and I reluctantly submerge ourselves and settle into the task of keeping an eye on Dylan while ducking flying water toys, thrashing kicks, and careening inflatables.

Everywhere I look there is a wet blonde head, churning movement, a flash of goofily-colored swim trunks. Riley calls from a few feet away to look at him, look at him. I wipe stinging chlorine from my eyes after a little girl practices her kicking next to me. Dylan is giggling and bouncing around and sometimes he slips off his feet but catches himself, flailing back upwards.

Then, suddenly, he falls and can’t push himself up. He is, for a brief and utterly horrifying moment, immobile: his legs dangling down and slightly behind him, his upper body floating, his face in the water.

In Suzanne Finnamore’s Otherwise Engaged, she refers to what her friend Jill calls a Grand Klong: a sudden rush of shit to the heart. “A Grand Klong is when you look in your rearview mirror and you see the police car.”

Your child, floating facedown in a pool, is most definitely a Grand Klong.

I scramble to my feet, scraping against the concrete steps and peeling a strip of skin off my back, and yank Dylan up and out. He splutters and briefly rubs a fist against his eye, then laughs and squirms, eager to get back down.

He’s off again, happy and upright, and I’m sagged against the side of the pool, chest hammering. I shake my head at JB, who looks back at me and grimly nods. Parenthood. Jesus.


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13 years ago

Not a mom yet, but I remember having a grand klong moment as a child. I was about 10 or 11 years old. I’m 6 years older than my brother, so he was pretty young. We were at my aunt’s house, playing with our cousins. We chose to play in a spare bedroom that was full of junk, including a very heavy wooden closet door that was leaning precariously against the far wall in the room. We began playing hide and seek, hiding behind boxes and paintings and old fitness equipment. I remember that the room was sort of dark and we were all giggling hysterically. I was hiding behind a big horse statue when one of my cousins jumped out from behind a stack of boxes, tagged my brother, who had been running to a new hiding place, and threw herself behind an old bicycle. She accidentally kicked the closet door and the next few seconds passed in slow motion. I remember a loud slow creaking as the heavy wooden door began falling forward. My little brother was standing in the middle of the room, frozen, as the heavy door was falling right toward him. He threw himself down and put his hands over his head, and I watched in horror from behind the horse as the door came crashing down. I remember jumping off the floor in a split second and charging at the falling door with my arms outstretched before it cracked my brother’s skull in two. I got to it in time and felt like Hercules as I pushed the door back against the wall. Everyone in the room was silent and shaking and I remember hugging my brother so hard. We left the room after that to play in the yard. I’ve never been able to get the image of my little brother hopelessly bracing himself as the heavy door fell toward him out of my head.

13 years ago

I remember the moment my little brother did something similar. He was 2. I was 12. I was a few feet away from him and as I swam toward him, to grab him, my dad simultaneously lept from the side of the pool, landed on top of me, and then standing on my head, rescued my brother.

We all survived, but I will never let my now 27 year old brother live down the fact that our father was fully willing to use me as flooring while he yanked my brother back to the shallow end.

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