An old lady face is pressed up against the glass of club-house, and she's been staring out at me for five minutes. I develop a nervous tic, flicking my hair, darting my eyes back and forth. What is she looking at? What am I doing wrong?
I'm just watching my kids swim, but I feel like she caught me smashing ping-pong balls.
Jude climbs out of the pool and into our red wagon, burrowing himself under a towel. A moment later the lady emerges from the clubhouse.
"We were all worried about your little one," she announces.
That's when I realize there's a whole host of old ladies peering out at me, whispering among themselves, judging me. I can see their heads bobbing behind the glass. Sheesh, people, why don't you just call me unfit and get it over with?
"He's completely waterproof," I say, and then kick myself. Waterproof? Did I just call my child a rain jacket? It's water-safe, dim wit, water-SAFE.
"Oh," she says, unconvinced. "Well, I waited and watched until I saw him swim for myself."
Why? What're they gonna do? Hobble out here on their walkers and save him from drowning?
I find myself caught between showing respect due someone her age and feeling the sting of being judged unfairly. Instead of retreating or mouthing off, I decide to win her over. At least, I can try.
I walk toward her, pulling the red wagon behind me. From under a towel in the wagon, Jude peeks out at her. He looks adorable, and I hope she notices.
"You have a lovely place here," I say. This stops her. She looks at me, measuring my sincerity.
"Well, thank you," she answers.
"My kids have loved staying here. Thank you for sharing it with us."
She's flummoxed, but I can tell she's softening toward me. I smile as brightly as I can,
"And just so you know," I say, "whenever any of the residents come to swim, I will certainly pull my kids out. We don't want to be a bother."
"Well, thank you! And you're quite welcome to swim here."
BINGO! She's really smiling at me now and I feel myself relax.
"You are blessed," she continues, "you know, many people can't have children of their own. You are very fortunate."
"Yes, I feel very blessed," I say. "Thank you." She nods and I turn away, pulling the red wagon behind me. We make a few circles around the pool until Jude warms up enough to swim again.
She's still watching me. But it's different, now. There's something wistful in her gaze. Maybe she's remembering her own children when they were little. Is it true that no matter how old your children grow, they will always be your babies?
I can't blame her for being worried about Jude. In 40 years, I might be worrying about other young mothers and their children. I just hope they try to win me over, too.