I have friends who had a pool installed in their backyard last summer.
Best investment they ever made, they told me.
Why? I asked
Now their grade-school-age children have something to do every day of summer, they said.
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Because my friends’ work during the day, their parents now don’t have to rush their grandkids around town, to summer camps, to select sports, and to friends’ houses every weekday.
We just hang around the pool a lot, they said.
As an adult, I’ve never had a swimming pool in my backyard. My Irish skin tone is not exactly pool friendly. Growing up, my two kids would have loved one in the backyard. But it never came up seriously. Everyone knew Dad is not a swimmer. In hindsight, maybe I should have looked beyond my own skin cancer fears.
When I was growing up, we actually had an above-ground pool in our backyard for a few summers.
It was one of those round, aluminum-sided pools. Dad bought it at Sears-Roebuck on sale. He once bragged about the good deal he got. “Already paid for itself,” he said, on one of the hottest summer days of my childhood.
It seemed like a huge pool to me. Everything seems bigger through a child’s eyes. In hindsight, it was probably not much more than a wading pool. There was no magic about when the old pool was erected and when it came down. It came up on the first hot Sunday of summer because Dad had Sundays off. That could have been June or July. It came down Labor Day weekend because that was the end of summer and we went back to school on the Tuesday after the holiday.
Our old pool was maybe 3 feet deep. Most of the water was splashed out on a good day so the hose was always nearby to keep it filled. The hose was also our 24-7 drinking water in the backyard. Yep. Amazing any of us are alive today.
There was not a lot of science involved with our old pool. Maybe a cup or two of Clorox Bleach dumped in on weekend days. We were lucky to get the pool cover on before storms. If it rained overnight and the cover was off, add another cup of Clorox.
Ditto for when a neighborhood dog jumped in to cool off, or when the kids were drinking a lot of Kool-Aid.
But on hot, summer Sunday afternoons, there were actually as many adults in the backyard pool as us kids.
At that stage of her life, Mom was into tans every summer. Her skin color changed almost as much as her hair styles and colors. I was the only member of the family who had to wear his T-shirt while in the pool. As a redhead, the sun was not my friend, as my Mom reminded me daily. Sometimes, I got sunburned right through my white T-shirt.
I can remember all the aunts and cousins being in that little pool on July 4 weekend. The dads grilled pork steaks and drank Falstaff on the concrete patio. The moms either were in the pool or sat in lawn chairs near the pool, and they threatened us with our lives if we continued to splash them and messed up their hairdos.
We didn’t take breaks to eat because the rule was you couldn’t swim for an hour after eating. Funny. There was never enough room to actually swim. But we wrestled a lot, and played catch with anything that wasn’t tied down.
The only bad thing about the pool was it cut into our Wiffle ball field.
Ball lands in the pool — you’re out!
But if it hits an adult in the pool — automatic triple!
I’m not sure what happened to the old pool. It likely just fell apart. Aluminum walls can only withstand so many summers of horseplay. But like Dad said, it well paid for itself.
My little daydream about our old backyard pool made me understand why my friends called a pool in their backyard the best investment they ever made.
Our world has changed. But I’m betting family fun at the backyard pool can be as fun today as it was many decades ago.