When I was in junior high my stepfather, along with some friends, one of whom was our neighbor Cookie, dug a hole in our backyard with a borrowed backhoe and installed a large in-ground pool. By the end of that first summer, we could walk a few steps from the screened in breezeway to the pool’s patio and jump right in.
My mother never learned how to swim and was actually a bit afraid of the water but loved to bask in a lounge chair in the hot summer sun, sipping iced tea after iced tea. My stepfather, the pool builder, was a freckled redhead with very fair skin; he avoided the sun. I never saw him actually swim in the pool he built for his acquired family. He quickly moved on to rebuilding an old boat from the hull up; that half-built boat loomed over the fence of the pool way past my high school graduation. But that homemade backyard pool made for heavenly summers in the 1970’s.
Cookie’s daughter, Sue, was one of my best friends. We worked together at a Howard Johnson’s cafeteria on the Mass Pike during those summers, she in the kitchen making salads and me at the cash register, collecting money from busloads of tourists. After work, she and I would joyfully strip off our just-below-the-knee turquoise checked uniforms and leap into the refreshing water. Often joined by a gaggle of girls, we would take turns rushing down the blue plastic slide and practicing dives off the board at the far end. Bikini-clad, we stretched out on brightly colored beach towels and slathered on Coppertone tanning lotion. We would snack on Fritos and Cokes and then jump back in to wash off the crumbs.
When I was a sophomore, I started dating the high school quarterback. The team would have summer practice sessions during stifling August afternoons. “Have the team come over for a swim after practice,” I told John. They did. Often. Sometimes a few, sometimes a lot. A horde of well toned and muscled high school boys would hoot and holler as they cannonballed into the cool blue surface.
Heaven for this teenaged girl.
An earlier version of this piece was published in Silver Birch Press.