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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Come on in–the water's fine

by 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?

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At 7:49 AM, Blogger Terry Odell said...

Backyard swimming pools (I grew up in Los Angeles) were just coming into existence when I was growing up. (Yes, I'm OLD!). We loved being invited to someone's house to swim.

When we moved to Miami, it was a jolt to see all the swimming pools inside screened patios--often only a step out of someone's living/family/Florida room.

Our second Florida house had a pool-the kids were old enough so I wasn't worried about them falling in. However, having a pool was so 'normal' since almost everyone did, they rarely used it after the first year or so. (Plus, it's so dang HOT out there, and the water gets to bathtub temperature).

Our dog seemed to like the pool the best, even breaking through the screening to 'rescue' the kids when they went swimming.

At 9:53 AM, Blogger Terry McLaughlin said...

Hi, Terry--LOL on the pool-loving dog :-)! We'd coax our dogs into the pool every summer, but swimming wasn't on their top-ten list.

Bathtub-warm water? Ugh. Once each summer, Dad would turn up the pool heater for a few days so Mom could feel more comfy, but I never enjoyed the warmer water as much as the refreshing cooler temperatures.

At 11:07 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

I grew up with an above ground pool. My summers involved chores, then pool time, then reading. We'd play volleyball in the pool, all run around the edge of the circular pool, then float in the current. I miss having a pool!

At 11:19 AM, Anonymous LIsa Hendrix said...

Okay, I need my coffee. I was scanning my RSS feeds and saw "Come on in, the WAITER's fine."

Different topic altogether...

At 12:06 PM, Blogger Terry McLaughlin said...

Hi, Mo :-)--pool volleyball is the best! So much fun trying to make those shots with all the splashing :-). I remember drifting on circular-pool currents, too. So relaxing :-).

LOL on the "waiter," Lisa :-)!

At 1:16 PM, Blogger Terry Odell said...

Yeah, in Miami you need pool CHILLERS, not heaters. The dog was a Doberman-Lab mix.

At 10:53 AM, Blogger Merrillee said...

We live in northern Florida and have a pool. We have a salt water pool--no harsh chlorine smell. It's marvelous. Our pool water never gets too hot, even with the temps are in the high 90's like we had the last couple of weeks. Maybe there is enough shade to keep the pool water at a reasonable temperature. We also had a pool when we lived in Dallas. The temps get really high there, and still we didn't have pool water that was too warm. Go figure.


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