I have a box of memories from my mother and in it is a black and white photo of me standing in a wading pool in our backyard. Dressed in my bathing suit, a stylish little plaid one piece with a ruffle. The snapshot is unremarkable save for the juxtaposition of plaid and frill and the complete absence of little girl confections of pink sparkle. No Moana, rubber ducks or floaties. Just me, a pool and some water.
Nestled down the hill, between the parking lot and the tennis court, was the Country Club pool. It sat off to the right of the main building, the one where we had cotillion, and all you can eat shrimp and, years later, my rehearsal dinner. The pool was in shadow most of the day surrounded by tall pine trees that broke the sounds of endless rounds of Marco Polo. I especially remember Saturdays when we would arrive sometime during Dad's back 9. Mom would sit with the women at the end of the pool closest to the clubhouse. I remember Mrs. Brinker always came to the pool with her jewelry on, and that seemed strange to me, but the concern lingered only till the next splash fest or permission to have another orange popsicle. The water was cold, always cold from the shade of the trees, and the hours we played left us blue with gooseflesh but never too tired to go home.
My first summer job was as a lifeguard at the local neighborhood pool, my brother and me. I was more senior, which suited me fine because I was bossier and I could tell him what to do. I loved telling him what to do. Each season would start with an inconsistent application of sunscreen that made him look like a candy cane for the first ten days and in my mind only confirmed that I was the smarter child. We had three pools to watch, the wading pool, the kids pool and the big pool and I loved my importance as I climbed into that lifeguard chair wearing my whistle.
During our first summer in Columbus Ohio, the tremendous heat in the landlocked city had us looking for fresh, wet places where we could sit and listen to the familiar and nostalgic sounds of summer. I remember the community pool you found, where just beyond the pool deck was a lovely plot of grass. We would walk through the gates laden with bags full of goodies and our vintage webbed lawn chairs tucked under our arms. A quick survey and you would pick us a spot off in a quiet corner where we would be just a bit out of reach, private and alone, but close enough to feel the energy from the pool deck. Here, we could faintly hear the reminiscent strains of Marco Polo. We would stay there until late in the afternoon, reading, laughing and crafting memories in this, our little mini break from the week. When they called "adult swim" we would leave the nest we made and slowly wade into the refreshing water under the waiting eyes of the impatient adolescents anxious to dive in.
One afternoon, in the waning sunlight of late day, as the crowds were thinning and as we lay outstretched on our lawn chairs, you grabbed my hand and said, "marry me."
Years later the heat of the Texas summer would once again find us sitting by the pool on chaise lounges reading, laughing and sharing stories just as we had in the beginning. Now, though, we were home, our home. The cats would come and go, resting for just a minute in the shade beneath the chaise before sauntering back into the temperate house.
My favorite was late at night, returning home, we would sit in front of the blue glow of the pool underneath palm trees looking at the sky. I wish I had a picture, of all of it really, the lifeguarding, the early years, Texas.
I think this as I pull the camera to my eye, tucked over in the corner away from the excitement of the Karaoke. I want to remember our trip through the Central Valley that has ended, as this story began, in black and white with a pool.