“80% of life is showing up” says Woody Allen. Clearly he never went to the pool in the 21st century. In the summer, 80% of life is getting ready to go to the pool.
I LOVE the pool. I want to go to the pool every single day. My childhood summer diet was Little House on the Prairie, The Price is Right, and the public pool. (There was also some mom-required silent reading thrown in there. We had to read our way to free Pizza Hut!) While technically I grew up in a suburb, the city where I grew up is very similar to the larger urban area where we live now. Some of the defining elements of city living–reliance on public transport, steady foot traffic, sidewalks, and public services within walking distance were all there. Even though we had few friends to run with, my hometown was an excellent place to grow up. We could walk or bike ride to the grocery store, pharmacy, library, and THE POOL! Cooler still, it was totally normal and acceptable for kids to do that. What a concept.
In the morning, my brothers and I would change out of pajamas and into bathing suits. The time waiting for the pool to open was SO long. The TV in the morning helped, but it was really just killing time. Once the pool opened, we had bikes and a towel hanging around our necks, and we were coasting downhill to the olympic-sized, county-operated pool at the end of our street. A plastic tag known as a “summer pass” cost something like $40 (a significant investment x three kids) and was supposed to be pinned to our bathing suits. It meant we could swim all summer long. We had to wear it only for the first couple days before the lifeguards knew us and we knew them. By the time my hair was green, the pool pass had long been forsaken, and the lifeguards were our summer idols. I still remember many of their names.
Currently, we still don’t swim in a private neighborhood pool. There are a few of them around our house, but the cost is outrageous. And so my love for the pool has taken our family on a tour of City of Atlanta and City of Decatur pools, feeling out which one suits us. This is our third summer of swimming at the marvelously equipped Outdoor YMCA pool that’s maybe 2 miles from our house (Riley just googled it and has confirmed it’s exactly 2 miles). I sidle into the Y each May and sign up for a family membership then tell myself to go back in late August to cancel but don’t usually end the relationship until September or maybe October. We are just in it for the pool.
The route to the pool takes us through the East Atlanta Village. Public Service Announcement, East Atlanta is a distinct neighborhood, it is not ALL the places that are East OF Atlanta. And Atlantans are pretty cut-throat about neighborhood boundaries and identities so commit that little nugget to memory. We drive through when the traffic is light. Hipsters are hosing off the sidewalks outside of bars, older folks stand outside the coffee shop with rescue dogs on leashes, the tattoo parlors are just opening for the day. After The Village, we drive over I-20 before we turn off for the pool. All this to say, I don’t really see us biking to the pool. Me and my four kids. We would spend so much time waiting on lights to turn green, trying not to die, and complaining that I am pretty sure it would kill the pool. For all of us.
Jo, being under 4, and totally disinterested in potty training, must wear a swim diaper. Swim diapers weren’t even a thing until fairly recently. A swim diaper used to be the 85 pound wad hanging off the rear-end of every baby that was swimming. The little kids were all in the nasty, pee-warm, tiny pool off to the side, it was no biggie. There was no beach-entry to welcome the non-potty trained into the big pool where the bowel-responsible swim. Beach entry = swim diapers. I just made that connection. Mind blown. Putting Jo in a swim diaper is a lot like putting a sausage back into a casing. Those thighs, those butt cheeks. Elmo’s face is contorted across Jo’s hiney, but so far, no leaks. Our pool does not allow babies to be changed on the pool deck, and so I put the tight dipe on the babe at home. I then drive in fear of her deciding to pee on the 2 mile drive. The wonder of swim diapers is that the pee just flows right on through. And a pee soaked car seat is a joy immeasurable, let me tell you. At this stage, I kid you not, I might throw a car seat away rather than deal with taking it apart and washing the cover. Yeah, see how DONE we are?! From cloth diapers and homemade baby food to disposable car seats; I have come a long way. I could change her in the dressing room of the pool, but I cant send my other kids out to the pool while I change Jo because they aren’t allowed to be alone out there; they are not 13. So we roll the dice and drive in a swim diaper. I even took her into the library in a swim diaper this week. I AM SO WILD!!
This might be a total lie, but I don’t remember ever wearing sunscreen to the pool. The pictures of me from elementary school show a VERY dark tan, so I am thinking there might be some truth to that. We did have to wear t-shirts at the beach, but I definitely do not recall being lathered up before our daily rides to the pool. In contrast, I have about 6 bottles of sunblock. There is the only kind I have found that works on Levi, there is the kind for faces, both liquid and stick, there is the bottle that’s empty that I keep freakin forgetting to throw away, there is the one that failed the “safe sunblock test” but I still have it because I figured it is better than nothing, and there’s the extra bottle that I bought when I was feeling really organized. I have a small trust of sunblock. Because that crap aint cheap. My kids all become selfish tyrants demanding that I sunblock them first. Because I should lovingly apply sunblock to your face, your back, your arms, and your feet while the other kids just stand there. I have learned to wait to do sunblock on the pool deck because the accountability of being in front of other people keeps them from acting quite so savage, and I can just squirt the stuff, and if it drips it doesn’t go all over my floors. I am really learning some stuff. I am usually so tired of the process by the time it’s done, that I shoo the kids off to the water. In about three minutes the sun starts beating down, and I remember I forgot to ask one of them to sunblock my back. And then I wish I had selfie stick, a sunblock selfie stick because I am not about to call one of those kids out of the water to sunblock me. Hello, skin cancer. I think I am going to start asking strangers, other moms looking forlorn on the pool deck, to help me with my sunblock. Because greasing up a stranger’s back is hilarious. Until then, I’ll just smear from the top, smear from the bottom, and take my chances with the unreachable middle back.
Much like the missing sunblock memories, I also have no recollection of ever eating food (actual food) at the pool. Some years the pool would have a concession stand , and some years it wouldn’t. The menu items were: hot fries, fun dip, off-brand canned sodas, and astro pops. A balanced 80’s meal, I suppose. We would occasionally buy fundip with our own money, and get the full array of pool snacks when my uncle would come to the pool. Mostly, we just swam and didn’t think much about food until we biked up the hill to home. Then we realized we were quivery legs, woozy head, hungry. I just had another epiphany. Pool math part two: adult swim EVERY hour = packing food to the pool. In my youth, there was one or maybe two adult swims the ENTIRE day. Since, the government has decreed that lifeguards that are guarding a pool where there is an adult for every 1.7 kids, need a break from checking their cell phones, to sit in the lifeguard room EVERY hour. The break needs to be 15% of the swimming time, and then they need to walk very slowly to the stand, pushing the percentages closer to 30%. Parents, left with their children on the sidelines, have no other choice but to feed the beasts. I, too, feed my children during adult swim. It defies logic, but for some reason I prefer to pack the materials for the lunch and then actually construct the lunch on site. Maybe it’s like sunblocking with an audience, or maybe I just find lunch packing to be a sole crushing and lonely pastime. I will throw a pound of turkey, a jar of peanut butter, a loaf of bread, some fruit, a bag of carrots and a sparkly water into the cooler bag and feel pretty good. I make the kids’ sandwiches fresh and right in front of them during adult swim. Ha! I am like the Chipotle of pool moms. I also wrote all my kids’ initials on clear cups so that they could just fill the cups at the water fountain (Genius! because water is really freaking heavy), but before the cups ever made it to the pool they were commandeered and used to catch bees in the garden, and now I don’t know where the cups are. How can they find cups they’ve never seen before, and turn them with critter catchers all while I put Jo’s shoes on? How? How? How? Why?! Why?! Oh, well, thirsty kids. This sparkly water is delicious.
I always feel so good about the lunch. I am glad we are squished close on towels together, I am thankful for healthy and delicious food, and the ability to afford it and enjoy it. We sing our little prayer before we eat. It’s good. Yay pool! But then in 3 hours, when we are all pool-tired, I accidentally leave the cooler on the porch. I remember it the next morning when I’m standing in the kitchen about to throw another meal into the cooler. The realization that I left a week’s supply, $14 worth, of turkey to spoil on the porch causes me to despair, and I am certain that I have NO life skills. 80% of life is showing up. Well, I guess we will show up with chickfila today.
The only floats allowed at the county pool of my youth were orange, coast guard approved life jackets that were kept on huge racks. Any kid that was saved from drowning was angrily hoisted into one, and MANY of the kids brought to the pool in daycare vans and buses wore them. However, at our pool now, floats and swim toys of all descriptions are allowed. Pool noodles, inner tubes, diving sticks, diving octopi, torpedoes, balls that will skip across the length of the pool, all of it. It’s a water-wonder-emporium. This is where I draw the line. Jo has a puddle jumper, her key to survival and pool freedom. I clip it onto the side of the collapsible grocery cart I ordered from baglady.com (that was Riley’s joke the first time he saw it. Just after he built it for me. If this was text message I would put the face with the heart eyes RIGHT HERE.) I have some coins in my purse if they want to dive for those. And the kids can bring goggles, but it doesn’t take long before they lose them at the pool, and I shrug and have one less thing to put in my cart. I hate pool toys. The pool is the toy. I am not carrying a jumbo flamingo, and I am not dealing with you tripping into an ant bed walking toward the pool while YOU carry it. No. So, as you might have guessed, when you go to leave the pool and are looking for the toy you can’t find, my kids are probably playing with it. Thanks for bringing that!
I love the pool. Getting ready to go to the pool is the pits, the raging pits, but what else can get you HOURS of outside time in the summer? I have finished this blog, and it’s time to start packing for the pool. “Charlotte, go grab the porch turkey, would ya?”