I recently saw a news story about the history of Park Ro-She, an old swimming pool in my hometown.
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 organized swim team.
Our only rule was to be home before dark.
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.