July 05, 2006

The Pool, Revisited

Ah, yes, right - the weekend. The long, long weekend that was, somehow, entirely too short. The last several days are, actually, quite easy to sum up. I played with my daughter, read a couple books, and went to the pool. There was a Fourth of July cook-out that turned into a cook-in due to the torrential downpour that forced my brother-in-law to grill while dressed like the Gorton's fisherman. There were random shopping trips for things like tiny bathing suits. The pool, however, was the focus around which the entire weekend was structured.

For the first several years of my life, my neighborhood pool was the nexus of my childhood. Sure, in the fall and winter there were endless games of football and, to my parents' horror, epic battles staged throughout the neighborhood. But, until my parents had the backyard torn up and installed a pool of our very own, the neighborhood pool was the place to be. When I walked into our community pool a while back, the sights and smells - shouting kids and the unmistakable tang of chlorine - brought that aspect of my childhood rushing back.

I remember summer, the stifling heat and humidity of Texas. I remember one summer in particular, the one in which I cracked my chin against the edge of the pool. The damage I'd done to myself required stitches. I rode all the way to the emergency room in the backseat of my godparents' old Mercedes, munching on potato chips. I still have the scar. I remember my friend Bill, who was three days older than I, much more neurotic even then and my constant companion, walking to the pool and walking home, exhausted. I remember water-wings, rafts, diving masks and the heat of the cement walkways surrounding the pool. I remember watching tennis players take to the adjacent courts, practicing their serves and volleys. I'd eventually take lessons there, from Mrs. Schwartz. Mrs. Schwartz quit teaching for a year, returning the next looking older and thinner and wearing out more quickly. She died a year later. Of cancer, we heard our moms whisper.

The lesson is, if not easily identifiable, simple. Despite the fact that things are so complicated - North Korea launches test missiles, wars rage in the Middle East and so many other places - to a child, not much has changed over the years. The pool is still the epicenter of childhood and the most irrefutable requirements in life are those that revolve around getting home in time for dinner.

Posted by Chris at July 5, 2006 06:36 AM

We've started taking Julia for swimming lessons and being back at the pool is a blast from the past for me, too. It's, like you said so well, the unmistakable tang of chlorine that gets me.

You read books this weekend? As in, finished one and started another? I'm jealous.

Posted by: mamatulip at July 5, 2006 07:33 AM

"Despite the fact that things are so complicated - North Korea launches test missiles, wars rage in the Middle East and so many other places - to a child, not much has changed over the years"

Children will always, despite what is happening around them, at the deepest level at least, be children.

And as children, they will act and view the world and those around them as children always will.

Thank, bloody, God.

I have no childhood scars bar a bruise-like blemish on my leg that's been there ever since I can remember (nobody I've asked knows what it is, but it doesn't hurt and it's been there for years, so ah well); but God knows, considering all the scrapes I got into, how I managed that.

Happy late 4th July.


Posted by: Alice at July 5, 2006 07:36 AM

Sounds like a lovely weekend.

We didn't have a community pool (we didn't really have a community--we lived too far out) but we had our own. But there are other things that sometimes I'll experience, like the smell of fresh cut hay or like yesterday when I made grape Kool-Aid for the boys, that just bring childhood rushing right back.

Wonderful post, Chris.

Posted by: Alissa at July 5, 2006 07:58 AM

Swimmin in a pool, swimmin' is cool. I go swimming.-Peter Gabriel.

Posted by: Bill at July 5, 2006 08:06 AM

Wonderful post, Chris.

Posted by: Jenn at July 5, 2006 08:16 AM

i'm impressed that you read books (in the plural) this weekend. Although I have the time being flat on my back/stuck on my butt this week I have lacked the concentration for any real book reading. I managed to finish one, but that was not without effort.

Posted by: suze at July 5, 2006 08:22 AM

Love it! What great memories you have brought back for me...

Posted by: Much More Than A Mom at July 5, 2006 08:32 AM

Ah, summertime pools and being home in time for dinner - and coming back once the street lights turn on.


It's good to know some things don't change.

Posted by: Autumn at July 5, 2006 09:02 AM

So was the tiny bathing suit for Beth or Mia? ;-)
Oh, I have definitely not had enough sleep.

Posted by: Heather at July 5, 2006 09:08 AM

When I was a kid, I didn't have a community pool but playing in the sprinklers or our neighbor's slip-n-slide, drinking from the garden hose,and running after the ice cream truck are what I remember!!

My kids have grown up at the beach so I hope they are always a little bit nostalgic about it when they get older.

Nice post!

Posted by: Ms. Q at July 5, 2006 09:42 AM

You know, I have tried to get through to the people I love, that what matters in this life is the people you love, enjoying the times you have together, and the very simplest of things.
People screw it all up by getting too complicated.
Beach time, cook outs, fun in the sun. Those are the times you will look back on in the years to come, and remember with smiles and fondness.

Posted by: Maribeth at July 5, 2006 09:52 AM

We didn't have a community pool, at least not one close enough to walk to and my mother never drove a day in her life.

Instead, I remember baseball. Not watching (although we watched our share of games), but playing. Constantly.

Ooh, and climbing up on the garage roof to get the buttload of pecans that always fell there and giving my mother a coronary every single time we did it.
The woman was perhaps too frail of spirit to have had 5 children and we perhaps took advantage of that at every opportunity.
In other words, we got away with murder all the time.

Posted by: Contrary at July 5, 2006 10:21 AM

My sister and I were just reminising about how we spent every waking moment of summer in the pool (yes, in Saskatchewan!). Now her daughters spend all their time at the same pool.

Posted by: Jodi at July 5, 2006 10:52 AM

Great post! It's important to remember that some things stay simple.

I rarely got to the community pool, as it was the next town over, but remember my grandparents' pool fondly. Except for the year that I was afraid it had sharks. Heh.

Posted by: Kate the Shrew at July 5, 2006 11:08 AM

The post definitely took me back to when I was a kid and we rode our bikes to the pool every day, flashed our pool pass patches sewn on our suits, and swam the day away.

BTW..hope you are NOT wearing those tiny bathing suits! :-) Not that you would look bad or anything ya know...

Posted by: Steff at July 5, 2006 11:55 AM

My 10 year old learned how to ride a knee board behind his papa's boat this weekend and I cried seeing his smiling face as he felt the joys of true accomplishment. He doesn't care about the President or the mortgage or even North Korea, he cares if it is going to be sunny tomorrow so he can do it again. A not half bad reminder to take time to enjoy life while we live it.

Posted by: Amy at July 5, 2006 12:15 PM

Heck, even as adults, life is good if you can get home in time for dinner. I hate doing the dishes after, but I love everyone sitting at the table for a family dinner. Speaking of family, it's growing. My daughter's boyfriend proposed during the firework's grand finale (on the beach) last night. ;-)

Posted by: Jaycie at July 5, 2006 12:26 PM

Great memories!

Posted by: Heather at July 5, 2006 01:08 PM

We are thinking of getting a pool installed. I am sure it would be great for our kids....and dad for that matter.

Posted by: Dennis at July 5, 2006 06:57 PM

What a great post! I swear there are some days that I would give anything to just be a kid again.
Thanks for triggering some happy memories for me!

Posted by: Colleen at July 5, 2006 07:49 PM

I remember many summers with chlorine-tinted green hair, and I have a chip on one of my teeth from a run in with the side of the pool.

Love the lesson in this post

Posted by: krystyn at July 5, 2006 09:00 PM

Can you believe we had a downpour that lasted all evening last night! The people who just have to light small explosives still went out and got soaked.

Posted by: Debbie at July 5, 2006 09:35 PM

Really, really great post, Chris. Thanks for the read.

Speaking of which...how do you find time to read--among a full time job, fatherhood, blogging, generously emailing your commenters....how do you find the find to read, i.e., two books in a weekend! (so impressed!)

Posted by: haley-o at July 5, 2006 10:24 PM

Most of my childhood summers consisted of softball for me and baseball for my brother with some working with my dad on the farm and swimming thrown in. It seemed we were always on the road for one ball tournament or another. I will still occasionally get on a slow-pitch softball team and it typically brings back the memories for me. Life sure was much simpler back then.

Posted by: Beth in StL at July 6, 2006 12:01 AM

Wow...memories. Even though in different countries, you and I, you couldn't be more 'right' about the neighbourhood pool memories. I had one too and, in fact, also had the adjacent tennis courts!

Posted by: Starfruit at July 7, 2006 07:00 PM