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The Memory Maker—My Sister’s Swimming Pool

web posted September 10, 2015

LIFE DOWN SOUTH –  Last Sunday morning I walked around sister’s swimming pool recalling good times. It was quiet. No children were about. Even though it was hot as blazes, you could tell Earth was transitioning to the next season. Leaves had fallen around the pool and chairs were stripped of their summer cushions. I found the scene a bit melancholy.
    Some of us remember that Jed Clampett and his clan called their swimming pool the “cement pond.” Thanks to all that that “Texas tea” discovered on their mountain land, they loaded up their truck and moved to Beverly, Hills that is, and its movie stars and swimming pools. Naturally the Clampetts had their own mansion and swimming pool, and a lot of “Beverly Hillbillies” episodes centered on the cement pond.
    A cement pond, for sure, gives a family a place to gather. My sister’s pool has long blessed our family with memories. Thanks to that memory maker, I’ve built a bridge of summer memories wide enough to accommodate children and floats, water pistols, super soakers, sliding boards, and aging parents in need of walking aids. The Russians have an old proverb. “One wedge knocks out another.” Anyone who has split tough oak gets it. Children, a family’s new wedge, free us from being stuck with a stubborn wedge of sorrowful memories of the dearly departed.
    One of the irrefutable laws of human nature is that all kids love pools. When my nieces were children, we played a game called “Alligator,” and yours truly was the slithering reptile chasing the little sunfish. “Bases” were everywhere and the girls shot across the water as if it were greased glass. Never caught them, not once.
    Today, sitting around the pool doing nothing but watching children play has been a joy. Just this summer my granddaughter and great niece bonded in that pool. That cement pond has hosted celebrations, “big number” birthdays, cookouts, and Saturday and Sunday afternoon splash abouts for children for almost thirty years. Of course, life being the grueling experience it can be, it can’t and won’t give you unbridled joy.        
    Summer 2001 was a season of self-imposed misery. I spent a lot of time that summer at my sister’s. Her husband was building the cabana you see in the photo. Dad was gravely ill that summer but loving a project as he did, he would come down to the pool late afternoons to see how the work was going. He’d walk around, feeble and weak, and soon go home. We had yet to learn that he had cancer. That diagnosis would come in the spring of 2002. November 15, 2003, he was gone.
    Mom never spent much time by the pool unless the sun was down. When she was young, she got terribly sunburned at the beach and from that point on she avoided the sun. As hard as I try, I cannot recall the last time I saw her at the pool. Last summer for her was just that: her last summer. March 26, 2015 she, too, was gone. When I turn my imagination loose I see the rippling reflections of ghosts upon the pool’s cold, clear water. Mom and dad are happy to see their great grandchildren getting to know each other. Happy, too, to see the family sharing good times by that rectangular body of water borrowed from Piedmont and Blueridge aquifers.

    All these things and more occupied me Sunday morning by the pool. As I walked toward the sliding board, I came across my great niece’s goggles. A few leaves had fallen around them. I remembered fishing those goggles off the pool’s bottom this summer and recalled the children’s lively chatter and laughter. Now I speak a smidgen of Spanish and can say a few things in German, but I am no language expert. Still, I know this. Children at play in a pool sound the same the world over. Translation is easy. Exultation.
    Yes, leaves are falling for Old Man Winter’s making plans for a visit down South. The pool will soon close for winter but that’s the cycle of life. Spring will bring another succession of family time around the “cement pond” for that pool is far more than a hole in the ground. It’s a place where new members of the family carry on that mysteriously wonderful thing called play.
    I suspect next summer an even older Tom will again play “alligator,” this time with my grandkids and great niece. If I couldn’t catch my nieces in the late 1980s, I don’t stand a chance against this new generation of sunfish, but I’ll give it my best shot. Maybe I’ll make a rule that they can only have two bases, not six.

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