I love being in the water. Love it. I once announced that I was pretty sure I could live in the shower in my parents’ guest bathroom.
But pools are better.
When I was a kid in southern California, we had some kind of above-ground pool that my dad almost never assembled. I remember playing in it, but not very many times.
Then we moved across the country. I’m sure someone had a pool in their back yard, but I don’t remember any. Instead, you joined a pool. There were wait-lists. It helped to know a member. After a year we joined one–although it turned out not to be the one most of my friends from school belonged to–and for years we spent lots of time during the summer at the pool.
The year I was eight, I was on the swim team for that pool. We would compete at other area pools against their swim teams. No one had Power Bars back then; between heats, you’d eat powdered Jello mix for energy. Lemon or lime was best. (Do not substitute a Twinkie. A Twinkie will hold you back. Even though it seems like a Twinkie is mostly air, experience suggests that it must really be Dark Matter.) I competed in the 25-free and 25-back. How did I do? Pretty much every time, I’d get third in free and first in back. Was that 25 meters or 25 yards? I don’t remember. I just know that if I could swim backstroke, I could beat everyone else.
Winters were wintery, but that didn’t keep me out of the water. How? Indoor pools. For several winters I would sign up for Winter Swim. I’ve always been good at swimming; whenever the instructor wanted someone to demonstrate a technique we’d just learned, he or she would ask me to show everyone.
Full disclosure: I have never been good at flip turns. Thus my success in 25-free and 25-back. I guarantee you I would not have won in 50-back, much less in 50-free. I was probably never asked to demonstrate a flip turn in either direction.
My other main memory of Winter Swim is a round of bullying that, unlike others, I was unable to deflect or derail. I carpooled with two boys from my elementary school who took it upon themselves to torment me. I have uncertain memories of them spitting in my hair during the car ride home. I loved swimming. I hated the ride to and from.
(I also hated my sweatsuit, which was some horrible 1970s attempt at–microfleece, maybe?–it was sort of fuzzy and when it pilled I wound up with little red fuzzy bits stuck to me, because it is impossible to truly dry off after Winter Swim. Even the locker room is humid.)
We moved to Texas. And, oddly, this is where I stopped swimming. Or not so oddly, if you think about it. We joined a pool that was within walking distance of our home, which meant that our mother wasn’t inclined to drive us. (Although I maintain that “walking distance” in a South Texas summer is about the distance from the front door to the car door.) Also, I was in high school, which meant that the pool and swimsuits seemed fraught with . . . well, fraught with something. I’m not sure I could have articulated it even then, but I stopped being willing to run around in a swimsuit, even at the pool.
In college, we’d go to the pool–but only to sunbathe. This, by the way, is a terrible plan for a redhead, particularly in an era when SPF 10 was considered to be a lot of sun protection.
Years and years and years later, I married Mr. Sandwich. We drove from our wedding in San Antonio to Los Angeles, and on one of the days before we left for our honeymoon in Hawaii, we went back to that college pool. I swam the length of it (this one I know–50 meters), clung to the side gasping, and then swam back. And while I was done for that day, I later spent many evenings in that pool training for triathlons.
Also, I am still lousy at flip turns, so it’s a good thing that when I compete, it’s in the open water with a noticeable lack of walls.
Now we live in the San Fernando Valley. When we moved there, I said, “I don’t need a pool–I don’t want one, too hard to maintain–but I do need air conditioning.” We have air conditioning, and I will admit that now that I’ve experienced a few Valley summers, I could also do with a pool.
Fortunately, we live within an easy drive of one of the city pools. It’s been closed for several years due to maintenance issues, but they finally repaired it and re-opened it this summer. While I am sorry that it’s now closed for the season, I’m glad we were able to go several times–and at $2.50 an entry ($2.00 with a library card, for whatever reason), I think it’s a much better deal than building, filling, and maintaining one in our back yard.
You know who else loves the pool? Baguette.
It must be genetic.
Photo by samk, via Flickr.