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Apodaca Park Pool ~ Las Cruces, NM
Growing up, Summer was swimming at the pool. The public pool- a mile away. Apodaca Park Pool where my sister eventually became a life guard and all the kids in my family had their names written in Magic Marker on the fridge in the office. We were “regulars.”
To get to the pool we either had to walk or ride bikes. The black streets would melt to tar in the summer and bubble up, so I always had tar on my feet. I naturally went barefoot. It always took about two trips to the pool to break my feet in, but after that nothing was too hot and if it was you planned your steps carefully stepping on lawns or dirt. There was no worry about a 9 year old girl walking by herself either back then. Oh no. In seventh grade I got a Schwinn 10 Speed and never again did I walk. I had wheels.
Summer was freedom. My mom had a rule that in the mornings during the summer, you had to help her, but the afternoons were ours. At first I’d meet Denise Summers there. Yeah. What a great name. Denise was a beautiful, naturally blond girl, a year older than I and we did sleepovers and spent all our time together in the summer. Our claim to fame was that Denise, younger brother, me, my older brother all had the same birthday. But we never celebrated it together because it was in January and I only saw Denise Summesr in the summer. When school started we didn’t hang out…she was older…that was uncool…She broke my heart when she moved away in 6dth grade. It was like loosing summer. But Diane Fraley filled her spot. Every day we’d meet at 1:00 at the pool and swim until 4:45. Diane had a very strict mother who had dinner on the table at 5:00 sharp.
Summer was boys. Lot’s of boys lived in my neighborhood. Lucky me. I had more boys as friends then girls. Our play evolved to flirting in the junior high years. Way more fun that way. We had invented so many games that we never got bored. We could do countless dives on the diving board. We’d swim, dry out, swim, dry out then we’d ask the life-guards if they wanted anything from Pic-Quik and of course they did. They gave us money, sent us there and we got to keep the change! What a deal. This lasted until my 9th grade year. I took a babysitting job but still managed to go most days when Diane could. Not as many boys there. We were growing up. Things were changing.
The next summer I moved away. To Lubbock, Texas. West Texas and no pool. I was a sophomore in HS. I was leaving the only town I grew up in and the only friends I’d know. I was not happy. I’ve always been fond of pools and swimming. In Lubbock I had to resort to laying out in my back yard to get my sun fix. I used to put lemon juice and peroxide in my hair and Crisco on my legs and then bake. Oh yeah, I tried the closest public pool. But how fun is it to go swimming alone? I had no pool, but I had plenty of summer sun
Summer is Sun. One day I was tanning on my lawn chair and I fell asleep. For several hours. This was the last time I ever laid out simply to get sun. Why no-one in my house noticed I was out there for hours I don’t know. Typical. But I started on my stomach and at some point rolled-over. When I woke up, I could hardly move. OUCH. Yeah I was burned. Which turned to blisters, which peeled off. Which left some funky tan lines. I was so mad that no one paid attention to me out there. I could have fried to death. I actually got scolded by my mom for allowing it to happen. As if I wanted this. The result of that was for years and sometimes even now if I get too red I can see the line from my bathing suit strap that fell down my back; indelible. I can also see the outline of the top of the suit. I can remember the uncomfortable feeling of putting on a bra over that. I remember crying and feeling sorry for myself because I had no friends and no pool-all that anger burned into me. I blamed my parents for making us move and taking away my summer. My mom had no idea what I meant, but a girl without her pool must lead to this. And it must be their fault.
Since then, I’ve let myself get burned on purpose, you know to get your summer tan started, but always weary of the amount of time in the sun and not a real burn. Never again. Burn =Pain. I got over being mad at my parents for making me move. The rational side of me kicked in eventually. But, I always will associate severe sunburn with sadness and anger.
In my twenties, I used to pick my apartments by how good the pool was, not how good the apartment was. And when I got married I was delighted to learn our first house had a neighborhood community pool. My son learned to swim there. He swam before he could walk. Now I have a pool now in my backyard. I use it a lot. But I wear a lot of sunscreen, keep my face in the shade and don’t ever over do it. I don’t really care how tan I get, I just enjoy the sun and cool water. And the only boy I play with is my son. I’m a teacher, so summers remain a special time for me. Summer is sun. Summer is the pool. Summer is freedom. Summer is me and my boy in the pool.
My water baby.