Monday, August 27, 2012

Swimming Summers

Park and Rhodes Schoolhouse on my morning walk.
Beyond the old schoolhouse: the park pool.

My childhood relationship with the public pool in the park was an important one. Though I did the majority of my swimming lessons at the local community college, the park pool was where I went to goof around with friends, to learn flips and handstands, to get my first taste of freedom and unsupervised gossip. My mom must have taken me there as a small child; I don't remember her there much, though, past my youngest years when she'd sit on her towel with a book and look up periodically while we'd swim in the shallow end. I must have entered the pool as a day camper, too. I remember one summer, standing in line, waiting to get in while camp counselors coated each other's and kids' noses with neon-colored Zinc Oxide. Oh, to be a well-tanned teenager with a triangle of hot pink on her nose... I couldn't have imagined anything more glamorous.

The pool was within walking distance of every kid's house I knew. It was the first place I got to go without a parent. The best were those independent, warm summer days spent in the deep pool, the water thick and salty with chemicals and unimaginable mysteries. We'd enter the facility with just enough quarters jangling in our pockets to buy a cold drink. We'd stay all day, pausing from our swimming only to drink a Mountain Dew in the shade of the oak trees. The cement was hot. Our towels, laid out near the fence at the back of the deck, were always soaked by the time we'd get to them. We'd lay our bellies on the hot cement like lizards, searing them red. We'd hope not to be the recipient of an angry whistle tweet signifying bad behavior. When it was our scheduled time to leave, we'd loiter at the curb in front as we waited for the pick up car, scuffing our feet in the dirt.

Those summers I'd burn and peel and then toast to an earthy brown. I'd come home with red eyes from the chlorine. My hair turned green. The bottoms of my feet were scraped raw on rough cement. My bathing suit bottom would pill from scraping against the pool deck as I slid in and out.

I walked past the pool this morning on a walk through the park. It looked surprisingly small.


  1. I remember many summers at that pool - day camp, swimming lessons, watching my EG Pirhana friends race in swim meets, my first jump from the high dive.

    And I agree - at the Western Festival last year, I walked by it, and it did seem rather small.

  2. I remember that pool well, but for negative reasons. That's where I had my first few summers of swimming lessons. All those day camp kids and teenagers doing canonballs into the water frightened the hell out of my 3 and 4 year old self. I never really was able to learn how to swim until I had private lessons in 6th grade... Oh well... My mom wised up when it was brother's turn and had him take lessons over at Cosumnes. He ended up being on the EGHS swim team for like 3 years and swam meets in that very pool. See what a difference a pool can make? Haha.