role models

It’s swim lesson time again! Once again we’re back at the pool two mornings a week while two Kiddos attempt to learn enough not to drown and one Kiddo asks me why he can’t have his lesson now. (Because his comes in the afternoon. It’s also time to put many, many miles on the car.)

During the first lesson, I looked up to find my oldest Kiddo’s swim instructor from last year, talking to one of the swimmers. She didn’t recognize me, and there’s no reason she should have, but immediately I looked up and around for Joey.

Joey is, you need to know, the main character of my string quartet novel. She is not a swim instructor. She does not go swimming nor wear a bathing suit during the entirety of the novel.

Readers: And you looked for her at the TenMilesAway swimming pool because why?

Jane: Good question.

Last summer, I noticed one day that I was looking right at my character. She kind of looked like her, but more than that, she held herself that way. It wasn’t in her appearance as much as in her bearing: thoughtful, reserved, and with the other lifeguards camaraderie but also a bit of distance. She was skinny and had long hair, but what impressed me more was her demeanor and her restraint.

This has happened before. Last winter at Mass one Sunday, I looked up to find myself looking right at Josh, the cellist from that same novel. About five years ago, I realized I was standing in the Communion line right behind the Archangel Remiel (except, without the wings, and her hair was black.) Those moments are always breathtaking, primarily because I realize they’re totally coincidental but I want them to be more.

I did what any self-respecting writer would do, of course: I watched for her at lessons, noting how she stood or the way she resolved problems. I got the impression she was in some position of authority over the other lifeguards, but I’m not sure. She was always working but never hurried, never panicked. And toward the end of the summer, I overheard her in conversation with some of the moms: she was beginning college, and they were telling her what to expect.

Anyhow, this summer, she hasn’t returned. I don’t know her name, I never spoke to her, and I know nothing about her. But I have to admit, I miss her.


  1. mgudlewski

    One of the wonderful things about writing – you’re rarely bored by the world. Everything is grist for the mill…

    1. philangelus

      Has that ever happened to you, though? You just look up and there’s your character. Except it’s not. 🙂

  2. Carol

    Love this post! I get what you mean! 🙂

    1. philangelus

      It’s a magic moment when it happens, but I suspect the other person would never really get it and might be a bit creeped out.