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A Sixties Summer Romance

I recently saw a news story about the history of Park Ro-She, an old swimming pool in my hometown.

Salt Lake Tribune

park ro she
Photo shared on FB by Ronny Yrigoyen

When I grew up in the sixties, my parents bought summer swim passes for us around Memorial Day and we spent every day at the Park Ro-She swimming pool until school started again at the end of August.

Every day we hopped on our bikes, pedaled down Main Street to the pool, and stayed all day long.

No sunscreen.

No supervision.

No organized swim team.

Our only rule was to be home before dark.

Thanks to Ronny Yrigoyen for sharing this photo on Facebook.
Thanks to Ronny Yrigoyen for sharing this photo on Facebook.

I spent many summer days playing Follow-the-Leader off the high dive and trying to master the back flip on the low dive.

I also desperately hoped that my freckles would someday merge and give me the illusion of a tan.

That never happened.

I spent the summers looking permanently pink with my sunburned, freckled, fair skin.

I remember the summer my little brother almost drowned.

Our neighbor was sitting on the side of the pool combing her curly hair and saw him struggling just in front of her in the pool. She started screaming to my older brother who was at the opposite end of the pool, to save him.

“Kelly, Kelly, your brother is drowning,” she yelled.

He yelled back, “Why don’t you help him? You’re right there?”

“I can’t. I’m combing my hair.”

Oh well then, let the kid drown. We all have priorities, right?

That’s been a family joke ever since.

If you’re combing you hair at the swimming pool, you can’t really be expected to save a drowning child, can you?

The story about the history of this town icon also reminded me that around the summer of sixth grade, one of my friends held a boy-girl party – the first party I’d attended where boys and girls paired up as couples.

I was not very interested in boys at the time — or for many years after that actually.

My mom said, “Why would you want to be bothered with boys when you have two of them at home that drive you crazy?”

Since I didn’t have a boy I wanted to invite, my well-meaning friends found one for me.

They helpfully arranged for me to meet this boy at the corner by my friend’s house on the day of the party.

I tried to think of every excuse not to go to the party, but somehow let myself be coerced into it.

When I got to the designated corner and met this boy, the first thing he said was, “Here.” Then he handed me a ring and grabbed hold of my hand.

Nice, subtle boy.

I managed to wriggle my hand away, and looked at the ring repulsed, wondering where he got the idea that walking with me to a party meant I would wear his ring and hold his hand.

When we walked into the party, it was clear that no parents were there because all these middle-school aged couples were draped all over each other in the living room.

The first thing on the party agenda was to play the boxed version of The Newlywed Game.

Remember, we were 11 years old.

My boy and I lost because we didn’t know anything about each other and all the questions were designed for married people.

After enduring a few rounds of the game, I told my assigned boy I was sick and had to go home.

For some reason, I took his ring with me, and then worried myself sick about how I was going to get out of my contrived romance with a boy I didn’t know and didn’t particularly like.

So, the next day, I took that ring with me to the swimming pool, planning to conveniently lose it.

The first thing I did was jump off the high dive, swim to the bottom of the deep end of the pool and drop the ring.

I happily watched it sink to the bottom of the deep end of the pool.

I was relieved to be free of the burden of a boyfriend I never wanted in the first place.

Unfortunately, a misguided friend found it and brought it back to me.

“I don’t want that dumb ring.  I’m trying to break up with him,” I said.

“You can’t break up with him by just losing his ring,” she said.  “You have to give it back and tell him you are not going out with him anymore,” she said.

“Fine,” I said, handing her the ring.  “You tell him for me.”

Thankfully, she did and my first relationship ended less than 24 hours after it started.

When I told Mom about the break-up, she said, “Well, I don’t blame you a bit.  You don’t need to be bothered with that fal-dee-ral.”

All of this is proof that the tans and even the sunburns fade, but the memories last forever.

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Happy Father’s Day — Doug-as-Dad

Happy Father’s Day Doug.

Here are 10 of my favorite Doug-as-Dad memories:

1. Just a few days after I had Sara, he swaddled her in what he called “The Torpedo Wrap” and took her to her first pediatrician appointment. He left me home to rest. I loved his confidence as he bundled her up and took her off to the doctor for her first check-up.

2. When Sara was a toddler, I went out of town for some meetings and Doug tried to do Sara’s hair just like I would have done it. He worked hard to get the bow just right. Then, Sara wanted to do Doug’s hair. She had him sit on the floor in front of her and she stood on the bed. Doug handed her a hairbrush and Sara just stood there silent. Finally, she said, “Daddy, where is it?”

3. When Annie was born, I didn’t think we had settled on a name for her. We’d discussed the name “Annie” because we fell in love with the movie “Father of the Bride” and loved the name and the relationship between the dad, George Banks and his daughter, Annie.  I think I was just coming out of the anethesia when I heard Doug on the phone ordering birth announcements and spelling the name “A-N-N-I-E.” I guess our baby will be named Annie, I said. The best part is that Annie and Doug have always had the good father-daughter relationship portrayed in the movie. (Added bonus: he has that kind of close relationship with Sara too.)

4. When Sara and Annie were little, we enjoyed their bedtime routines. We bathed them, dressed them in their cute little nighties and read books to them. Then, somehow, a new bedtime ritual entered the routine. We had massive collections of Beanie Babies. The girls decided to completely cover Doug with Beanie Babies and they would only remove them if he gave their correct name from their official heart-shaped tag. How many dads can say they excelled in remembering every name of every Beanie Baby?

5. When I was away, Doug took advantage and said, “Let’s do all the things mom won’t let us do.” They tried to keep their adventures secret but eventually, one of the kids would say something like, “When we went to Kentucky Fried Chicken for dinner…” or “I won the screaming contest in the car with Dad…” or my favorite, “Dad won the burping contest.” Oh goody.IMG_5128 IMG_5115 IMG_5127

6. Doug was a busy man while our kids were growing up — a demanding job that required long days, and a lot of travel; almost six years as the bishop of our congregation at church; and some college time at University of Pennsylvania, but he was never an absent father. Ever. He cheered them on at every soccer game, cheerleading competition, basketball game, play, and concert. He is one of the most involved dads I’ve ever known.

7. One of my favorite sights was to walk by Doug’s office and see him having a one-on-one conversation with one of the girls. They share all their stories and secrets with him. Even when they came home late and shared their reports on their events, he was right there, involved in all the details.

8. Doug always said great memories have to be planned. So, he planned some wonderful ones from trips to New York City to a night a Chucky Cheese, a special dinner at home or a fun party with friends, a night at the Kennedy Center or an afternoon at the ballpark. He plans for fun and creates wonderful memories.

9. Always a good sport, Doug dressed up and attended many tea parties. He and Annie always loved to play in the Thanksgiving bowl with our church friends, and they always came home muddy. He played the role of Prince to Sara in her countless reenactments of Cinderella at the grand ball. On our beach trips, we would often stop at the outlets to do some school shopping. The girls would scoop up lots of cute clothes, try them on and then agonize over which ones to buy. I would say, “Choose the one you’ll wear the most.” Doug would say, “Just buy them all.” Guess who they like to shop with most?

10. I think my favorite thing about Doug-as-Dad is that he is the ultimate gentleman. He took both Sara and Annie on their first dates, always sent them flowers on Valentine’s Day, and always tenderely loves, listens to, and respects them. He has set the bar high for all the men in their lives, and for that I’m so grateful because they know what they deserve and I hope they never settle for anything less.

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Reimagining Life

Over the last few months, I’ve run into friends I haven’t seen for years.

These friends are my age or close to it, and I find myself awkwardly staring at them, thinking, “Are we really this old?”

Don’t get me wrong.

We look good … for our age.

See, it’s that last phrase that gets to me.

As we get older, we say things like that because age has suddenly become an issue.

I’m fine about getting older, it just surprises me sometimes.

I talked to someone recently about a job possibility, and he said the company wanted people who were in their mid-fifties who could give their last 10 years to the job before they retire.

Is it just me or do you translate that into: before you become irrelevant?

According to AARP’s Reimagine my Life tool, “a new me is within reach, and the life I’ve dreamed of having is actually very possible.”

At a college graduation party, we saw some friends we have known for 25 years.

One of them is getting ready to retire (NOTE: he’s about 10 years older than we are), and he said, “You’d think at our age, we’d have our lives figured out. But everybody I see that is our age is still trying to figure out what they’re going to do with their lives.

“At our age.” 

Those words just don’t comfortably slide over me.

Each word sticks –At. Our. Age. Nothing good comes after those three words.

And guess what? We never really have life figured out.

I am starting to appreciate quotes like the one from Maxine that says, “For Halloween, I paint black widows on my spider veins.” Or like Weezer in Steel Magnolias when she said, “I am an old southern woman, and I am supposed to wear funny clothes, ugly hats, and dig in the dirt. I did not make the rules.”

I’m not as old as Weezer and I’m not wearing funny hats or digging in the dirt, but I am seeing life change a little bit.

I don’t want to go back in time. I love the life we have now, but I’m still surprised.

Surprised that we still don’t have life figured out. Surprised that most people don’t, even the people our age. Surprised that we are viewed as having about 10 years before official age of irrelevance.

But, there’s another beautiful surprise I haven’t mentioned.

It’s tucked in this little story about celebrating my dear friend Laura’s birthday last week.

I was blessed with a close circle of church friends while my kids were growing up. We were like an extended family and raised our kids together.

A few nights ago, four of us gathered for Laura’s birthday dinner.

We talked for hours about how things have changed in our lives  — how our kids have grown, and our families have changed, how exhausted we feel from serving in the church sometimes.

We miss some of the high points of our in-the-trenches family life, but none of us want to rewind the clock.

We’re happy with the progress we’ve made.

We don’t have life figured out, but that’s okay.

What we do have figured out is that we are better women because of everything we’ve been through together and we are bound by those experiences and by our faith, which uplifts, elevates and strengthens us.

As I drove home from that night out with the girls, I thought about the depth and richness of our conversations.

Those kinds of conversations don’t just happen organically. They are the results of years of friendship.

I wouldn’t trade any of that for a few less wrinkles on my face or even a few more years off the resume that shows I only have 10 good working years left.

Because at my age, life is pretty good.