Tag Archive | "public pools"

The Deep End of the Pool

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At the tail end of July, as the temperature creeps toward the 100-degree mark here in New Jersey, and the A/C system in my office continues to taunt me and the other residents of this building, temptation rears its cool little head.  I’m thinking of purchasing a pool, but I’m stalling … probably because of the memories I have, all wrapped up in slimy pool liners and chlorine-flavored water.


When I was a kid, I never had a swimming pool.  There simply wasn’t room for one, unless one of our family members was brave enough to dig up my grandmother’s amazing roses, herbs, zucchini, and prized fig treeNo one was that brave, not even my grandfather, who had fought in World War I and had the scars to prove it!


So, before my two best friends Kim and Billy got their pools, I once made the long trek into another neighborhood on foot, in search of a public pool. Known as Farragut Pool, it was located deep in the heart of the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, New York. My friend Anita, whose family had more money than mine, had snagged a season pass to this pool, as had her brother and sister.  “Your mom is great!” I exclaimed, withering inside and secretly wondering if my own mother loved me less than Anita’s. What had never occurred to me then was that Anita’s mom probably thought she gotten off cheaply by buying season passes for her three kids and thereby getting them out of her hair on those long, hot Brooklyn days when air conditioning was still an amenity for the truly wealthy.


Anita sang the praises of this pool as if it were a Roman mineral bath laden with special healing properties.  Thus, I bugged and bugged my mom until she eked out enough dough to get me into the pool for a single, expectantly blissful day.  I packed my towel, bathing suit, Coppertone sunscreen lotion and headed off for my maiden voyage to Farragut Pool with Anita, Kim, and our other good friend, Laura.


The pool was large and brilliantly blue; under the white-hot sun, diamonds danced upon the inviting water.  Gaggles of children and harried parents dove in and out of the pool, splashing everything in their path and batting around inflatable beach balls.  The tempting aroma of grilled hot dogs and burgers wafted upon the humid July air.   My friends, all strong swimmers, slid into the deep end of the pool.  But me, I had to be content with the kiddy area of the pool, a rather embarrassing situation for a nine year old dying to fit in and frolick with her friends.  Not having the financial resources of Anita’s family, and possessed of a mother who screamed bloody murder each time I came within ten feet of the surf at Manhattan Beach, I had never learned to swim.


Once out of the pool and onto the blistering cement surrounding it, I hot-footed my way toward the cabana, stepping by accident onto the towel of a teenaged princess wearing … you got it! … a teeny weeny polka dot bikini.  Said princess cussed me like a sailor every which way to Sunday, thus adding insult to injury (blisters were indeed forming on the soles of my feet).


Inside the cabana, which smelled of other people’s sweat and stuff I’d rather not mention, I stripped off my sodden one-piece suit just as another patron hauled the door open, exposing me to one and all within eye-shot.  Needless to say, I never again patronized the Farragut Pool.   A few years after this incident, the public pool was demolished to make way for a Pathmark, the first supermarket in a neighborhood dotted with small, family-owned grocery stores.


Bowing to pressure from their four children as Pathmark’s foundation was poured, Kim’s parents bought a large outdoor pool from Sears.  It was supposed to have been the summer’s respite for those four kids, their two cousins with whom they’d shared the same roof, the friends of those kids, including yours truly, and various and sundry neighborhood strays who always drifted down, somehow, to the sounds of delighted splashing and children’s laughter.


But, still I could not swim, and still, Donald haunted that pool.  Kim’s older cousin, he was already six feet tall at the age of fifteen and my nemesis.  Young and innocent, it never occurred to me that I could pretty much cripple Donald if I chose to grab a certain part of his anatomy as he dunked me and held me under the water — as he did invariably on every visit to Kim’s pool.  I exacted my revenge upon Donald in other ways.


At the end of that first summer with Kim’s pool, the pool had to be cleaned and Kim and I were conscripted for this task.  Funny, but all those other kids who’d enjoyed the pool with us were nowhere to be found that day or for the rest of that week.  If you’ve never manually cleaned an outdoor pool, a pool drained of its water, you have no notion of how utterly disgusting a task this is.  It was putrid.  It was stomach churning. I vowed never to step a foot in that pool again if it meant cleaning it, and I kept my word.  And sweltered!


The following summer, Billy’s family got a pool for their backyard.  But with five kids, three of them boys, it was more like a feeding frenzy in a shark tank.


The summer that the Billy’s pool arrived, I’d taken a little job teaching English to an 8th grader whose mom was desperate for her to enter Catholic high school, my high school, via better grades.  So I tutored the pretty blond girl, received my wages, and got a bonus in the form of a red bikini whose top had obviously been engineered for Mattell’s Barbie and not skinny lil’ ol’ me.  But, I had grown a few curves in my freshman year of high school, and my frugal parents had taught me never to waste anything.


So, I donned the bikini and innocently stepped into Billy’s pool.  Whereupon, his little brother Johnny, who’s probably doing time in Sing-Sing now, lunged for me.  Without warning, he pulled down my bikini top to get a good look at what lay beneath it.  It happened in the blink of an eye and Johnny, apparently, liked what he saw, even though I was nowhere in Barbie’s league.  In fact, the look in his eye was akin to that of a little boy finding a long-hoped for present beneath his Christmas tree.


This behavior and rapid-fire remarks as to my feminine pulchritude, earned Johnny a black eye from Billy.  In the screaming match that ensued, whereupon I was looking for that hole going down to China that I can never find when just I need it most, I slunk away with my arms over my chest, leaving the bikini top floating blithely between the two warring brothers.  It was the first and last time I ever visited Billy’s pool.


Years later, my boyfriend got a pool for his backyard.  He also had a young German shepherd who adored me … a pooch, not a strapping young man!  …  and the feeling was mutual.  That dog (honest) used to pee with joy whenever he saw me coming down the drive.  My boyfriend had to hose down the driveway every time I visited.  That sweet dog just couldn’t get enough of me, and I loved him to pieces.  But when the pool went up, the dog went in — to be close to me.  He would not take direction; he wanted to swim with me, who could not swim … still!   But dog hair in the pool, the smell of moist dog, and impromptu showers from said dog shaking the water off his fur put an end to me going into the pool.  My guy had chained the shepherd up one day so that we could enjoy the pool in peace, but my heart broke for the poor, whimpering dog.  End of that!


So, as cool and inviting as thought of my very own outdoor pool may be, I think I’ll stay put on dry land.  Or maybe not.  I wonder how big of a glass I can find for a nice, cool raspberry margarita. Maybe I can take a dive in that! 


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