The Fine Print: The Life Aquatic

Everyone remembers a pool. If you didn’t have one growing up, then it was down the street, around the corner or in a friend’s back yard. And if the time you spent there was anything close to the hours I logged as a kid, it was a lot.

We were all water babies. At least that’s what my mother tells us and what a few scratchy video tapes confirm. There were five of us — one boy and four girls — and we took to the water like our ancestors had gills. From the moment my mother dipped us beneath the cool, welcoming surface, we were hooked.

There was a rhythm to our summer days. And our existence revolved around the pool. My mother religiously protected our skin from the dangers of the sun and proclaimed that swimming when the sun was at its strongest, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., was off-limits. Most days we went from pajamas to bathing suits before we had breakfast. Ten a.m. would announce itself in the sound of my mother’s shrill whistle, and we would begrudgingly pull our waterlogged bodies from the cool haven. Board games, books and canasta did little to hold our attention, and much of the afternoon was spent throwing furtive glances out the window to our pool.

The water was something to admire, the way it transformed you into something else: a dolphin, a mermaid, a shark. There was always a movement to it, always a dance of sunlight skimming its surface. Many times, after the sun had dipped below the horizon and the warmth was fading from the day, I would curl up on a deck chair, mesmerized, watching it lap against the sides of the pool, the towel wrapped around my browned shoulders smelling of fresh chlorine and the sun. The drifting smell of dinner on the grill would hold me just out of sleep’s reach as our Technicolor swimsuits hung on the line, drying for the next morning’s swim.

Despite my loving memories, the pool of my youth no longer holds a candle to the water resorts that have sprung up in today’s back yards. No longer are you limited to the basic rectangle and white plaster; in their place are lagoons with stone waterfalls, oceanlike vistas with unending water and free-form designs that effortlessly embrace gardens of exotic greens, intimate stone pathways and wide-sweeping patios. The options for pool owners are enormous, whether you’re thinking of reinventing the pool you have or just looking for ways to reduce the amount of time you spend caring for it. And for those of you thinking how nice a pool would look out back (think BBQs and the option to skip all that weekend traffic to the shore), we’ve compiled some information for you, too. So go ahead — dive in.