Here's to Nostalgia

I spent the past weekend in Dallas with my family. While I was there we got some exciting news, SMU's natatorium is going to be torn down and a new pool is finally going to be built. I'm sure that seems trivial to most of you all or at the very least you're confused about why in the world this is such a big deal to the Pappas household. Let me explain.

Both of my parents are SMU alumni. They grew up in Oklahoma, my father in Stillwater, my mother in OKC, and they both participated in swimming and diving programs at their respective schools. My mom was such a bad ass in high school that she was the only girl who dove, meaning she dove against the boys. My dad was a swimmer and claims to have watched my mom when their school were competing at meets. He claims that he told his high school friend he would marry her one day. This may be an exaggeration, but it makes for a great story so I'm gonna run with it. In a twist of karma, both of them went to college at SMU where my father continued to swim and my mother continued to dive.

Now, even though my dad claims to have watched my mom dive in high school, she will readily say she had no idea who he was. Fast forward to college, both of them are involved in SMU's aquatic program. They know of each other on the peripheral. They have mutual friends, they run in the same circles and, apparently, my mom finally got to know my dad's name. While they knew of each other, both were dating other people. It wasn't until grad school that my parents started dating. It was a match made in chlorinated heaven. 

They both stayed in Dallas and are still incredibly involved in the swimming and diving community. My father is involved with the Dallas Aquatic Masters program, swimming is still his favorite way to exercise. My mother is a diving coach, working for a handful of private schools in North Dallas, she is also employed as a coach at a Dallas club team, Mustangs in the Sun. 

To say that I was raised at the SMU natatorium would be an accurate statement. I grew up in a family where you learned to swim before you learned to walk. It sounds like I'm exaggerating but I don't think I am. When you have babies around a pool, you teach them to swim as soon as possible. I remember running around the indoor pool, dragging mats over to the pool lip and using them as slides. Katy Stillson and I were little terrorists, wiggling into diving lines so we could do something silly off the boards, daring each other to finally take the plunge off 10 meter. One summer we threw water balloons at the passing cheer camp from the tower. In the natatorium I would beg Jim to rig me up in the belt above the trampoline. Right as I would spring up he would pull the rope sending me higher than I would ever jump on my own. 

I remember summers where I was spent a majority of my time darting in and out of the Swimming and Diving offices, begging for change from Eddie or Greg or Jim or any other available staff member to get a soda. Every year I was dragged to the Dallas Morning News Classic, both men and women. For a long time it was boring, until I realized the amazingness that was college boys in speedos. Needless to say, I was much more enthusiastic about that meet from there on out. I would sneak back into this meeting space to the left and rummage through the framed team pictures until I could find the years my dad and uncle Bob were on the team. My favorite thing was the bring friends along with me so I could show them my mother's portrait hanging in the front of the building. She was a nationally ranked diver who competed in the 1980 Olympic trials. Once I even had a lifeguard coworker at SMU say, "You're mom was really hot when she was in school." A few portraits down I see familiar faces like Cheryl Santini, another amazing diver who was always nice to me when I was on deck, had a family that would pay attention to me at meets, and even babysat a couple of times. I took my first swim lessons in that pool, swam club in that pool, even took a stab at diving (that phase didn't last very long) there.

I went on to play basketball for Parish and than attend college at Rhodes, even then I still found myself at the SMU natatorium. My first real summer job, one where I got taxes taken out of my check, was as a lifeguard at the pool. Let me tell you, lifeguarding is not glamorous, but it was always nice to know most of the coaches on deck. Getting a bear hug from Eddie Sinnot is a great way to start a hot summer day. I may be a lynx cat, I still say Pony Up with confidence.

Renovating the pool is needed. It's an old pool and updating it will be a big boost to the program, but that doesn't mean I won't miss it. If there's one place I know on SMU Blvd, it is the Perkins Natatorium. It is kind of crazy how a building can hold so many memories. So this post is for nostalgia and excitement about what the future holds for a program that has touched my life in so many ways. 


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