When I was a kid, the best part of the entire year was summer time. In those days, we always got out of school by Memorial Day and didn’t go back till Labor Day. We had 3 months of uninterrupted play time and we always made the most of it. Prairie Village, Kansas had the largest public swimming pool complex around and it was our home away from home for the whole summer. This place had 2 Olympic size pools, a separate diving pool with high and low boards and its own kiddie pool for the really little ones. It was also surrounded by tennis courts and playgrounds and was less than a mile from my house. As much as I loved swimming, this was just about as close to Heaven on earth as one could get.
Even when I was really little, my folks were okay with me going along with my sisters and spending the day there. What they didn’t know is that my sisters weren’t exactly watching out for me every second. They were too busy getting a tan and hanging out with their friends, so I got to roam free. There really wasn’t that much to worry about because I was always an excellent swimmer. Having grandparents on a lake in Minnesota means that you learn to swim right away and I absolutely loved the water. Luckily, I had incredible lungs and could hold my breath forever, so drowning was never really an issue. Slipping on the deck or getting a sunburn were much more likely accidents for me. In fact, when I was 11, I gave myself the worst sunburn of my life by spending the whole, 100 degree day at the pool and coming home looking liked a boiled Maine lobster. The skin on my shoulders just peeled off in sheets for several miserable days after that, which was doubly painful because I couldn’t go back to the pool till I healed.
As I got older, during junior high, I began to appreciate the benefits of suntan oil. Not the sun protection factor but the need to have sweet young things apply it to my back and shoulders and chest and arms and face and anything else I could think of. I even had the scars to prove how medically necessary this procedure was and why they should be happy to oblige. Occasionally, I was even able to convince them that it was a good idea if I did the same for them. When you’re 14 years old, just the sight of girls in bikinis is debilitating enough but getting to apply suntan lotion is quite possibly the most mind boggling experience available to the adolescent boy’s brain.
There were other revelations about women that came with a day at the pool. Some times they couldn’t get in the pool but they wouldn’t say why. Those were usually the same days they acted like little freaks of nature anyway so it was a good excuse to stay away from them. They would just sit on the edge of the pool and complain about how bad they felt and how much I didn’t care about them. It was so bad that I sat on the bottom of the pool holding my breath till my lungs were ready to explode, which was preferable to the verbal abuse that waited for me if I surfaced. Okay I admit it, I was a little slow to figure out this physiological phenomenon but geez, couldn’t you ladies at least have given me a warning. In retrospect, I may have broken up with several girlfriends over the years just because I couldn’t handle their moody periods.
On the other hand, I met most of my girlfriends during junior high at the pool so I guess you have to take the good with the bad. Summer time was all good anyway and even though it was hot and humid and no one had central air, that was just an excuse for staying outside all day and night. After dinner, we all gathered in the cul-de-sac to play kick-the-can and hide and seek. It seems odd now that we were so free back then. I guess when you only have 3 TV channels and AM radios you find ways to make your own fun and finding good friends to play with is all important. Come to think of it, I would be glad to give up the internet, cable TV and cell phones for one more summer in the city.
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