Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Long Summer Days: A Look Back on My Childhood

Scamp and I headed off to my hometown about 40 minutes from were we live to spend the day swimming with my sister and my niece and nephew. The pool is part of a hilltop camping ground hidden from the rest of the world. It's only 5 minutes from her house, and you would never know it was there. The gravel drive is nestled in a tree-lined hill off the beaten path of the main highway.

We grew up there. My mom, her two cousins and their children along with my sister and I swam and sun-bathed there several days a week during the hot, muggy summers of my childhood. The water to the pool is still ran straight out of an underground stream causing the pool to be chill-to-the-bone cold, but as a child, you get used to it. We were considered the locals along with a few other pool rats whose parent's docked a camper there every summer, feeling as though we owned the pool ourselves.

I spent most of my time under the water along with my cousins Jennifer and Tara. We were fish, only coming out of the water for a quick bite to eat or a dive into the lifeguard-free deep end. We taught ourselves to swim, me being too shy to take lessons, and dive from the side since the diving board had been removed years before. It was rumored that a young man had been killed diving from that old board, and that is why it no longer remained.

We would arrive early, 10 am, opening hours of the pool. Most of the time we were alone and could have to entire pool to ourselves at this early in the day. I remember the clear blue stillness of the water and how you could see straight to the bottom as though you were looking through one of those glass-bottom boats. Nose-pinched, I would drop straight in to the 8-foot deep, resurfacing almost instantly as I jolted from the rough, uneven bottom and back into the glaring sun to gulp a breath of air. The frigid temperatures of the water made it almost impossible to slink slowly down the hand-carved concrete steps of the shallow area.

We would swim until lunch and come sopping wet out of the water, fold a towel around our waists and plop down on the concrete benches underneath the umbrella-covered tables. Our moms always packed a lunch of sandwiches, chips, sodas, and occasionally chocolate-chip cookies. On cloudy days, the cool wind would freeze our still soaked skin and goosebumps would ripple along our arms and legs. As a rule, our moms made up wait at least 15 minutes before getting back into the pool believing we might cramp-up and drown.

After finishing our meals, we would head to the covered pavilion, and tiptoe across the smooth concrete floor trying not to slip from the water dripping off our legs and hair. The pavilion was full of wooden picnic tables, an old green covered pool table and an even older green painted ping pong table with the tiny net barely able to stand straight up. My favorite was billiards, and we always made sure our moms brought plenty of quarters for all of us to play.

Finishing up our games, we would head back over to the pool for a quick swim before we hopped back out for a favorite summertime snack, ice cream. The pool's office was built right up next to the pool, and we would run, our towels loosely wrapped around us, into the air-conditioned, arctic of a place when you're wet, office and wait our turn to fish around inside the cooler to find our favorites. Mine was usually the Mickey Mouse shaped ice cream bar, with chocolate-dipped mouse ears and a vanilla cream head on a wooden stick. We would slurp down the special treats as fast as the summer heat made us, then dive back into the pool to wash the melted, stickiness off our hands and mouths.

Around 3:00 pm, our moms would call for us to come on out and dry off before we headed back home. Mostly dry except for my blond-streaked hair plastered to my scalp and my colorful two-piece swimsuit of the summer, I would sit in the back of my mom's black Cutless. The maroon cloth-covered seats were hot to the touch just as the air inside was steaming from the humidity, which made it rather difficult to breathe. We would ride home with the windows down as the heavy breeze dried my hair.

By the end of the summer, my skin would be tanned a deep brown except for the very distinct outline of my swimsuit underneath my clothing. School would start then, and we would long for the days of summer to return.


Jill@Who Could Ask for Anything More said...

What a wonderful memoir of your childhood swimming days. I was a swimmer, too, as a child and lived at the pool. My mom never came along but I have very fond memories of playing with my friends, eating snowcones, sunbathing, etc. My husband and I were just reminiscing last weekend about how hungry we always were after swimming. My favorite after-swim treat was watermelon...another great summertime memory.

Belinda said...

Wow, your description took me right there. I enjoyed reading it so much--experiencing the sights and sensations of a time long gone, but still alive in memory.

Have you heard back from Long Ridge Shawna? You have such a wonderful gift for writing.