Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Grace Is My Name


The house we bought has a pool… at least it will be a pool after we clean it up and have it repaired. That is our goal for March and April

I can already envision coming home and sliding into it at the end of a long frustrating day. I imagine cook-outs with grandchildren jumping and screaming and laughing out loud as they play like seals. I imagine moonlight swims with the man I love as the deer walk through the yard softly snuffling their greetings at us and the night birds sing. 

I love to swim, my husband loves to swim, the grandchildren love to swim, and their parents love to swim. It was inevitable that eventually, if I ever had the money and the time we would have a pool. I am planning on many, many glorious days spent sunning (yes I know it is bad for you and have the scars to prove it) with my SPF 1000 on, lazily floating around like bit of flotsam, dipping and diving and frolicking about. Heaven is a backyard pool.

As far back as I can remember the act of going to the swimming pool has been synonymous with good times. My sisters used to take us to the swimming pool in Fort Leavenworth. We had patches sewn on our swimsuits that said FLOOM which allowed us entry, a magical pass that let us into summer and youth whenever we wanted to go. The pool was huge; the water was deep and was always full of handsome young men showing off for the teenaged daughters of the commanding officers. I didn’t understand nor care about the clumsy rituals of pubescent mating. I just got to be by myself in a blue and white world with the sounds of laughter coming to me, distorted by the water as I swum about until I was starved and sun drunk.

When we lived in Belgium we would go the pool in Zaventem. It had both an outdoor and indoor pool. Most of the young people sat outside around the water, more flirting and sunning and diving. For this reason I always swam inside, alone, floating in the quiet, the echo of small children crying and mothers shushing and old women murmuring as they stood in the water not moving but enjoying the company just the same. There were always one or two old men, scrawny, chicken necked, serious, doing the breast stroke up and down and up and down the pool, taking up a center lane and wrecking any cross pool swimming I chose to try to do.

I learned how to do a perfect dive here, I learned to back dive here. I learned how to stand on my hands in the moving water and do somersaults front and back, strings of them over and over until I was dizzy and out of breath.  I certified for a life guard’s badge here, for the fun of it. I had no intention of ever actually being one. Too much drama, too much exposure to the crowds of people I was so uncomfortable with. 

The one time I was convinced to go with friends I didn’t know what to do. I listened to their prattle, followed them outside as they strutted their newly formed stuff and felt utterly uncomfortable and more alone than I ever had. I did my share of flirting, strutting and ogling, just not here, not at the water covered by next to nothing, not in my quiet wavy place. My body was perfect in the water, I was free and limber and graceful. Outside the water I was awkward, had huge heavy embarrassing breasts and couldn't see where I was going. No contest, I always went alone after that.

We lived in a condo complex when my children were babies. I would load up the playpen and cooler and floaties and towels and bottles and toys and, making two or three trips cart the whole kit and caboodle to the pool every day it wasn't raining. I put the brightest ugliest floaties on my kids so I would be able to see them and they wouldn't drown. I splished and splashed with them, teaching them to dog paddle, to not be afraid to jump in, to go under, to hold their breath. Remembering my concave gut after hours of swimming when I was a kid I always had apples and Kool-Aid and crackers which they would scarf down and head right back into the water. They were nut brown, strong, thin, and oh so social. 

They played with their friends by the hour. Other kids came and went but we stayed, all day, every day. On mornings when we woke up and it was raining we all were grumpy, nothing was better than those free hours together yet separate and happy. Sometimes cousins would come and I had a few minutes of peace while my brother threw them all up in the air and chased them through the water like a shark.,

One time I jumped in and saved a little boy from drowning. He was autistic, hated being touched and easily frightened. A neighbor had decided that taking him into the deep end was all he needed to see what fun it could be. Unfortunately, she had passed the point of no return, her feet no longer anywhere near the bottom when she let go of his legs and touched his face in a loving gesture. He screamed and started swinging at her. She was completely taken by surprise and they both were going under and quickly. I had been talking to a friend and we heard a strange noise, weird hollering that made no sense. We both realized at once what had happened and jumped in, me going for the kid and her for the poor drowning lady. As I scooped him up he thrashed and screamed, clawing at my face until he finally latched onto my hair, a safe hold with no skin to skin contact. His trunks fell off in the struggle and this terrified him even more. We had the attention of the entire pool community now. I finally got him to release me from his death grip, latched his little stiff arms onto the ladder and swam into the deep to get his trunks back for him. As we struggled in the water to get them on he wouldn’t look at me, his legs stiff as boards, realizing that I was helping I guess, but not being able to deal with the nearness. I heaved myself out and took the next thirty minutes convincing him to let go of the ladder and touch me so I could help him out. His mother finally appeared out of nowhere, yelled at me, yelled at him and took her cranky bib-butted self back home where, it turned out, she had stolen a half hour to be with her boyfriend who had a slight problem with her kid not being a perfect normal little boy.

Other than those few times the days of summer run together for me in a haze of Coppertone and Kool-Aid until a tornado took away my roof, my clothes and sadly my lazy hazy summer days.

I went years without a pool before finally buying a house in a neighborhood that had one. I loved it, my husband hated it because there were rules and regulations and he has an issue with them in general. The kids had little children and somehow all of those years of letting them be children didn’t transfer and they were terrified of letting the kids get near the water or out of their sight for a second. I reminded them of our good times but still they balked. 

Except for the few times I managed to go by myself and be sun glutted I did not enjoy it. I was back out in the open, exposed in my swimsuit, now with an awkward body and big heavy breasts and not being able to see anything. If others were there I avoided it. It was not all in all a pleasant experience. In a few years as the grandchildren got a bit older and their paranoid parents let them go a little bit some fun times were had but we were already on the hunt for a new place
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In the end we found this house, surrounded by nothing with a pool of our own.  I look out at the board covered hole in the ground now and I can’t wait to be deep in the wavy blue and white world where grace is my name.