The sun did me dirty last week. It charred my skin right up. I was like a burnt piece of beef jerky. It was not cute nor comfortable. The culprit? Staying outside in 95 degree temps lounging by the swimming pool with a UV rating of stay-the-hell-inside. You want me to say I’ll be careful and use sunscreen but I was using sunscreen. It just so happens I stayed out way too long, and swam in the pool for, well, the entire afternoon.
You’ve probably seen those horrid t-shirts that say things like, “In my other life, I was a mermaid.” The thing is though? I was. I see water and I want in it. I’m like a Labrador retriever. (So there’s a possibility that I was a Labrador, not a mermaid. That would also explain why I’m always hungry.)
First memory? A swimming pool.
I’m not sure where my love of swimming began, but my actual first memory is that of being in a swimming pool. I was 3, and my parents had taken us to Disneyland. I was wearing my popples swimsuit: definitively 80’s. Darcy, my older sister, donned a red-white-and-blue swimsuit. The motel we stayed at had a pool, and it entertained me more than any of the kiddie rides or horrifying Disney characters. The characters just all seemed so big. I remember the swimming pool steps, jumping into the water at my mom, and the hot concrete and tile on my knees when I crawled out. It wasn’t exactly a long memory. I mean, I was 3. Give me a break.
RV Park Pools
After that, my life can be measured in time spent between swimming sessions. I try to get those interactions with pools and lakes closer and closer together. Texas pools are no joke in the middle of the summer though. They are hot, even in the shade, in the morning, or evening. Hot.
We’re hanging out in an RV park for another 6 weeks or so, and I’m not mad. How could I be? There’s a body of water four sites down from us. About 5 other people use the pool, and 70% of the time I’m there alone. Turns out a lot of people don’t like warm water on a hot-as-hell day. It’s peaceful floating on the edge of the surface, watching birds and planes fly overhead, and in the morning, dragonflies.
By the time I turned six, my parents were fully aware of my love for swimming and everything pool oriented. One evening after parent-teacher conferences, my mom didn’t take the usual route home. The sky darkened by five in the evening in winter in Bend, Oregon and the idea of us driving around after dark was preposterous. My mom navigated the Bend streets, so empty then in comparison to today, and we arrived at a place on the edge of town. (This wasn’t entirely true. It was about ½ mile from downtown.) It was a motel we had arrived at.
I can’t recall the exact conversation I had with my mom – I was six after all. However, what was conveyed was my parents wanted me to know how they were proud of me for doing well in school and we got to stay a night at a motel so that I could swim in the evening before bed, and in the morning, before my mom drove me to school at 8:30. An added bonus? My mom had brought potato chips.
A pool in Bend has to be covered to be able to be used in the winter: by October, the nights are frosty. By December? It’s in the 20-degree range. (Fahrenheit.) This was one of the only motels that had a covered pool in Bend, and running back to our motel room after our dip was cold enough that I shivered in the night air. I showered, soaking up the hot water.
The pool and weather here are not the same. I’m hotter from when I get out of the pool and the time I arrive to our Home on Wheels. I shower, but to cool off. I mean, I would. But there’s no cold water in an RV when it’s 100 degrees out. That’s a funny thing about RVs. There’s never enough hot water in winter, and never enough cold water in summer. I’m okay with that. It’s just a side effect of the life we get to live.
A trip to Kmart
I was eight or nine when my dad and I went on a secret mission to Kmart in late May. My mom and sisters were in some other secret place that I assume was a parent-teacher-conference. As a kid, I always assumed that’s where my mom and sisters went if I wasn’t with them.
Kmart wasn’t a favorite of mine, but hanging out with my dad to run errands was always a big treat, especially because he often let me pick out a 25-cent candy bar. I assumed we were there for something chore-oriented. A new shovel or tools or stain for the deck. Something dad-like in nature. When we stepped in to the store, my dad pointed at a large mound of huge boxes right in the entryway with a large sign: Sale: $139.
“Hey Sush,” he said, “What do you think about those pools?”
The shiny-cardboard boxes housed 4-foot high, 12-foot across above-ground plastic pools – ones in which you would set up the sides, and then place a large blue circular liner inside, pinning the sides to the edge. It even came with parts for a metal ladder with black plastic steps.
When my dad grabbed a cart, my heart exploded. A POOL?! IN MY BACKYARD? I thought he was pulling my leg because how could we afford something more than one-hundred dollars? But when we made it to the check out, I knew the truth. We were buying a pool. We owned a swimming pool. The cashier didn’t seem half as excited as I thought she should be, but I let it slide. I wasn’t going to invite her over; she clearly had no respect for pools.
The rocky soil of Bend, Oregon
By the time we arrived home, I had dreamed up all the flips and tricks I’d perform, and had started putting together some synchronized swimming choreography for my sisters and me.
Bend has rocky soil. My sisters and I spent hours after my dad pulled up the grass sifting through the dust to remove handfuls of pointy rocks before we set up the pool. Every June, we’d fill the pool up, and every September, we’d siphon it out slowly across the yard, watering plants that would go dormant before long. And each June, there were new rocks to sort through and throw into a pile, no matter how many hours we had spent the previous year picking them out of the ground.
1997: Wave Pool
The year I was 13, we had gotten lazy with our rock picking. On a hot afternoon in summer, my little sister and I were making “wave pool.” I’d grab a floating toy and push all my body weight on to it, then quickly pull it back up. This created a small wave, and after about 3 rounds, my very-small-for-her-age sister would jump up and be pushed from one side of the pool to the other. When the waves got large enough that the water splashed over the sides, we’d lunge onto floating mattresses and float the waves back and forth.
Now might be a good time to remind you that it was not the largest pool in history. But it wasn’t a kiddie pool. And this year? We weren’t going to be slowly siphoning the water across the yard in September.
We were going to let it all go: all at once. 2,500 gallons of water.
Suddenly, the sides of the pool caved in as the liner ripped across the bottom, and the waves we had created plummeted Kiwi and I out of the collapsed pool and across the yard. We yelled with laughter, still on floating mattresses, as the water careened us into the vegetable garden on the opposite side of the yard. My mom ran to the kitchen window when she had heard the huge splash – and watched as two of her daughters learned to surf in the yard. We didn’t have to water the yard for a good two weeks after that, but the next year my dad picked up a new pool and we started all over again, picking through rocks and setting up the pool.
Texas swimming pools
This Texas swimming pool is a little too big for me to create a solid wave pool and I have to act “cool” since I’m not 13, but while I swim laps, I think of these stories. I have about 20 others that often come to mind as I drift on the soup-temperature water. It is warm, and one could argue it’s not entirely refreshing, but that water keeps pulling me back on these hot Dallas days.
My dream pool
My dream house is a piece of land surrounded by trees so no neighbors can peek in. In the sunniest spot sits a saltwater pool.
A huge-ass swimming pool.
It’s surrounded by this gorgeous glass structure so that in the winter I can swim even when it’s cold outside, like I did at the motel when I was 6. The walls are these huge garage-door style windows that retract in the summer. There are lounge chairs and a shaded area for my red-haired friends and easily-overheated Jeremiah. I spend no time in that area because I suck up the sun at every possible moment. I’ve built this concrete and rock bar where we serve margaritas to our friends as they splash in the pool. I dream big. Biggest when it comes to pools and swimming.
If you must know, I’ve actually already invited the Secret Keeper and the Promise Breaker – but if you’re reading, consider this a formal invite to come swim at my pool one day. I’ll have some potato chips and floating mattresses ready for you.