The 4th of July is the grandest holiday in the summer season at our town’s swimming pool.
First, there’s a small parade of old cars, old politicians, young Scouts, a rag-tag band of musicians, and a huge flotilla of kids on anything with wheels. The kids and bikes, scooters, and strollers are all gussied up in red, white, and blue, of course. One year, a woman who lived on the parade route dipped and distributed mini ice cream cones to the passing crowd.
The parade ends at the pool. There are games on water and on land, and the whole shebang ends with a giant picnic. The day at the pool was, for our boys, Christmas in July. Today’s photo shows Hugh flipping on the 4th, a few years ago. He loves this picture because of the implied vapor trail.
Now? Our boys couldn’t care less about the town celebration. Ian was the only person from our family who even went to the pool yesterday, and that was only because he was working as a lifeguard.
More globally, our boys couldn’t care less about the pool. There is definitely a bell curve for kids and pools.
First, they can’t swim and may be scared of the water. You have to be with them every minute. As toddlers, they fall frequently on the wet pool decks. You have to dry their tears. They are still in diapers, which become saturated and bloated with water after a few minutes in the baby pool.
God forbid the dreaded Diaper Burst occurs, which dooms you to picking up the bits of wet cotton and those weird absorbent gel pills for the next 15 minutes. This ecological disaster bears some similarities to the BP oil spill, complete with the apologies to disgusted pool users. “We deeply regret the flaws in our diaper management system and are doing all we can to restore the pool and playground area to its original condition so that all may enjoy it again.”
Once toilet trained, the kids advance to the shallow end of the large pool. You still must watch them like a hawk, or play with them every minute. I for one should have perfectly toned arms from those hours of playing Motorboat, Motorboat with my boys. They wanted constant interaction with us, back in those days.
Then they learned to swim, and took the big pool test, earning the honor of going off the diving board and allowing them to be under the watchful eye of only the lifeguards.
When Ian passed this test, I created a tour de force of a celebratory dessert. It was a sheet cake, with blue tinted icing and Twizzler lap lanes. The diving board was made from a Lik-M-Aid dipper and frosting. The swimmers were Teddy Grahams. The piece de resistance was a Teddy Graham doing the sidestroke in the laplane, which everyone at the pool instantly recognized as the lady who does only that stroke, keeping her head bobbing above the water, and who yells at the kids for splashing her when she’s near the diving board. They never understand why she’s upset about getting wet while she’s in the pool, and frankly, neither does anyone else.
At the age of 10, the kids are allowed to go to the pool alone, with no parent or babysitter acting as chaperone. This was a godsend for our family, because our house is located just a short hike through backyards and woods away from the pool. For the next couple of years, the boys are completely digging their independence, and so are we.
By the middle of middle school, though, it’s all over. The pool has lost its luster. They stop going.
We can only get Hugh and Malcolm to go if that’s where the family dinner will be served. Chris uses the pool, and does his 1000 laps every summer. Ian works there. I go once in a blue moon. It’s a wasting asset – sadly.
And the bell curve ends, as flat as it began.