Almost ten years ago, Ken’s aunt and uncle made us a deal we couldn’t refuse. Fifteen years earlier, they bought an above-ground swimming pool from a store that was going out of business. They had every intention of putting it up in their yard for their two little girls. Well, one thing led to another, life went on, and the pool sat unopened in their garage. Their girls had grown up, gone to college, and moved out, and the pool was of no use to them any longer. The pool was ours if we were just willing to drive the two hours to pick it up and then figure out how to put it together. It had no pump or filter and no ladder, but it was spring, so those things were readily available. Ken went the very next day to pick up the pool, and I scoured Craig’s list for the missing pieces. By the time Ken got home, I had secured a filter and pump, and a few weeks later, Ken’s sister had located a ladder.
Ken spent every evening after work for the next month digging out and leveling our yard, piecing together the outer wall of the pool, and trying to stretch the liner that, after 15 years in a garage, had shrunk from its original size. When the five of us finally pulled the liner into place and stood back and marveled at the giant (and I do mean giant) pool that we had constructed ourselves, it felt as it we were witnessing a miracle. And oh what a blessing that pool was.
When I was growing up, there was just one thing I always wanted and begged for (except for my 4th grade horse phase). That one thing was a pool. Unfortunately, we never lived in a house that had the right yard for a pool. You can imagine my elation when we had our own pool in our backyard for the girls, Ken, and myself to enjoy. That first summer, we were in the water every single night.
We had one party after another, inviting friends and family to come over and enjoy our pool. I can still close my eyes and hear the squeals of delight from the girls as we swam and splashed and played. It was Heaven right in our own backyard. Morgan, our swim team champion, was in the water literally from sunup until bedtime. It’s a miracle she had any skin or hair left by the end of the summer. After a couple if years, we were able to build a deck, and I spent many hours that summer reading books on the deck while the girls swam.
Alas, as happens in life, the girls grew older, and we all grew busier. Morgan began spending so much time in the swim team pool, practicing and competing, that she no longer had the desire to swim at home. If she had friends over, they swam, but otherwise, she seemed to forget that the pool was even there. Katie and Rebecca had summer jobs that kept them away from the house for long hours, and they lost their love of being in the pool. Ken started traveling a lot more, and to keep our family together as much as possible, we tried to travel with him whenever we could. Even I, the girl who longed for a pool, found myself closed up in the house sitting in front of my computer. Entire summers went by without me even putting on a bathing suit.
Last summer, I got very sick at the tail end of our family vacation. When we got home, my doctor told me that the best thing for me to do was to spend 10-30 minutes a day in the pool. That last week of summer was the most relaxing and rejuvenating week of my entire year. I had forgotten how much I love to swim! I love the feel of the water, the rhythmic pulse of a string of laps back and forth across the pool, the sun’s hot rays slicing through the cool water and creating a soothing bathtub sensation on my body. I spent this past winter and the long, cold, wet spring looking out my kitchen window with a smile This was the summer I was going to swim every day.
A few days ago, Ken pulled the cover off of the pool. He climbed into the green, murky, stale water, and began cleaning it out. He noticed a few cracks in the liner, some that looked rather bad, and realized it needed to be replaced. He found this no easy task as the pool was now around twenty-five years old. Settling on patching it up, he figured he could get another summer out of the liner while searching for a replacement. He then retrieved the filter and pump from the shed, cleaned them, hooked them up, and then took them off and carried them into the garage. The pool was filling, and as Ken worked on something with the pump, I anxiously watched and waited. Would it be ready by Memorial Day? It seemed to be taking so much longer this year for Ken to get it all put together. How much longer would I have to wait?
At dinner last night, Ken announced that we had to make a decision as a family. “I can’t fix the pump,” he told us. The pool was too old, the parts no longer available. A new system would cost upwards of $1000, and he didn’t want to even say how much the eventual liner would cost. “I spend $2000 a year and countless hours on the pool, and nobody uses it any more.”
No! Wait! What was this leading to? Were my ears deceiving me? I was going to use it! I needed to use it! We had to have a pool!
“We could build a huge gazebo in that area,” Rebecca excitedly said.
“Or a Michael Phelps practice lane,” Morgan enthusiastically chimed in.
“Or just use the money for our vacation,” Katie suggested.
I was silent. Did they not see? Did they not care? This was my pool! Our pool! Where we spent so many good times years ago. Years ago. The thought echoed in my mind. Where did the years go? Why hadn’t I seized every opportunity to spend time in the pool with my family when we had the chance? Why had we let other things get in the way? Why had I spent my entire summer indoors instead of enjoying the one thing I had always wanted so much?
I cried last night while Ken held me and apologized. I know. It’s a pool. I get it. There are far worse things in the world to cry about than the dismantling of a pool. But it was more than just a pool. It was my childhood wish, my family’s nirvana for a few short years, a project that we put so much work, joy, and love into.
The next few days won’t be very much fun for me as I watch the pool come down little by little. Our backyard will never be the same. You see, even if we didn’t use the pool as much in the past few years as we could have, the possibility was always there. But I guess my memories will always be there, too. In my mind, the pool will always be used by three excited little girls, their laughing father, and their overjoyed mother. It’s not possible to turn back the hands of time and redo all of those lost hours, but we can make sure we don’t repeat that mistake. We may not have a pool this summer, but we have each other. And really, that’s all we need.
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.
Robert Herrick, 1591 – 1674
Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her latest book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her next book, Whispering Vines, is now available for pre-order.
You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.
Crabbing With Granddad (2013)
A Place to Call Home (2014)
Picture Me (2015)