Keeping Cool at the Pool

Some summer things change. Some never do

First time back this year at the pool we’ve belonged to since, like, forever. Okay, since the kids were young enough to like the baby pool, with its fountain in the middle and the sea creatures painted on the bottom and the water that somehow never quite looks clean. The kids no longer come to the pool with us, though. It’s not cool, when you’re in college, or a recent grad, to accompany your parents to the scene of so many embarrassing-to-remember moments, like the time you froze your first time on top of the high board and couldn’t be coaxed to jump, not even by the lifeguard you thought was so cute. The kids will use the pool this summer, if they use it, when Doug and I are at work—or, better yet, out of town.

No worries. Other people’s kids are here, and there’s this bonus: We don’t have to worry about them drowning. Every whoa-in-a-bikini teen girl and trying-to-cannonball-the-lifeguard prepubescent boy, every four-year-old running up the steep hill to the bathrooms, every eight-year-old being whistled at and sternly admonished “No running!”—been there. Done that. All over now. Doug and I sit and watch a dad tell his screaming three-year-old daughter again and again: “Go sit down! Go sit down!” All around the pool edge, moms lean out and warn their offspring: “We’re leaving in 15 minutes! Fifteen minutes—do you understand?”

Some multi-generational clan is sprawled all over “our spot,” between the volleyball net and the pavilion. How dare they? I page through a magazine. The water’s too cold; I know it is. It always is at the beginning of the summer. By August, it will feel like a bathtub, just barely refreshing in the late-day sun.

We had a long debate, Doug and I, over whether to join the pool again this year. We didn’t expect either kid to be home for the summer, and it seemed selfish and a little silly to pay as much for just the two of us to belong, on top of our membership at the Y—and the Y actually has a pool. It’s not an outdoor pool, though; it doesn’t have that stretch of bright blue sky above it, or wind rippling tiny waves, or the occasional dive-bombing horsefly. Clouds never gather, and raindrops never land around you, and the lifeguards don’t shoo everybody up the hill at the first crack of thunder, to chew Laffy Taffy from the refreshment stand and wait, wait, wait for the storm to pass.

It’s funny how something that seemed so exotic and extravagant when the kids were little—a swim club? Us? Really?—has come to be so familiar and necessary, after umpteen years of trudging up and down that hill. I sit on the pool’s lip and dangle my feet in the water. It’s not that cold, not really. I slip into the blueness, feel it envelop me, buoy me. I bubble up to the surface again, break free into the air, and laugh.