Come on in–the water's fineby Terry McLaughlin
When I was nine years old, my life changed. In the space of one long plane flight on a February day, my family traded the snow and ice of Spokane, Washington for the palm trees and balmy ocean breezes of Southern California. I had a new home, a new school, and a pool in my backyard.
Dad had promised to buy a house with a pool, and he delivered, even though the house part of the deal was a mess. Mom was horrified when she saw the damaged rooms and leak-stained ceilings, but by the end of our first summer in Palos Verdes, she'd forgiven Dad for choosing such a disaster. She was as much in love with that pool as we were–she said it was the best babysitter ever invented.
Dad cranked up the pool heater every year during the last week of school, and he shut things down when school started again in September. Summer vacation was pool time, and we loved every moment in the water. We'd actually cry and complain when Mom insisted we spend the occasional day at Redondo Beach.
On a typical summer day, we five kids rose early in the morning, donned our suits, and climbed out a back bedroom window to dive in. An hour or so later, Mom would appear with a tray and five bowls of cereal, and we'd line up at the shallow end for breakfast, staying in the water as we ate. Except for lunch, dinner, and bathroom breaks, we'd swim until bedtime, getting pruny fingers, plaster-blistered feet, and mousy nose-guard lines in our deep tans. The first year, we all came down with cases of green hair, too, until Dad learned how to adjust the chemicals.
Five kids can be extremely creative with water play. We'd stretch the garden hose across the deep end or float inner tubes near the diving board and challenge each other to leaping contests. We invented complicated underwater games with handicaps to allow for the differences in our ages. One summer we dragged our swing set to the edge of the pool and enjoyed a few minutes with our new pool slide and an exciting game of swinging out and into the water until Mom came dashing from the house to put an end to the fun.
Mom and Dad enjoyed the pool, too. One night, one of my brothers awoke with a tummy ache and wandered through the house, searching for missing parents. He heard some splashing, turned on the pool light, and the splashing turned to screams. That's when we all learned about skinny dipping.
The smell of chlorine, the warmth of sunshine on water-slick skin, the splash of a cannonball jump, the bright colors of extra-large beach towels–poolside will always mean summer to me.
Do you swim during summer? Did you enjoy poolside days during your childhood? What are some of your favorite swim games?