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At Patterson Park Pool, one door closes on summer while another opens on school

Mia Colfield, center, and dozens of other women participate in an aqua Zumba class on the last day of the summer pool season at Patterson Park pool.
Mia Colfield, center, and dozens of other women participate in an aqua Zumba class on the last day of the summer pool season at Patterson Park pool. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

Nikki Cobbs, 45, will miss “all the beautiful colors of summer” — the marigold yellows and geranium reds. And flip-flops. She’ll also miss flip-flops.

Talia Farley, 7, will miss sleep-overs with her friends and eating strawberry ice cream cones, licking them fast so the frozen concoction doesn’t drip. But she will not miss mosquitoes.

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And Torri Carter, 46, and her friend, Mia Colfield, 48, will miss taking Latoya “The Zumba Queen” Branch’s water aerobics class in the big outdoor pool at Patterson Park.

The class will continue at a nearby recreation center, and Colfield and Carter will be among the reputed grown-ups jumping up and down in the water and hollering at the top of their lungs — but the class will now be held indoors.

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“There’s something about taking aqua Zumba outside and under the summer sun,” Carter said. “It feels like I’m free.”

Technically, summer’s not over yet; astronomical summer lasts through Sept. 22. But for most people, the seasons don’t follow the planets. Instead, the seasons follow the school schedule.

So the three warm-weather months that roughly correspond to the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day are what counts as summer, when the fashion czars deem it acceptable to wear white shoes, when it feels good to walk barefoot through the grass no matter how old you are, and when you can listen to crickets humming at night or track the glowing path of fireflies across your backyard.

Tuesday is when public schools reconvene statewide, so Monday was the last day of 2019 that watery attractions from the City of Baltimore’s neighborhood pools to the Beaver Dam Swim Club were open.

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Cobbs, a district manager for the Baltimore City Department of Recreation & Parks, oversees six recreation centers and five pools. Sure, the pools are a lot of work. But Cobbs finds herself looking forward to Memorial Day every year.

“You really get to know the people who use the pool,” she said. For instance, she’s saved on her mobile phone a photo of one customer in particular — a 2-year-old charmer from Romania who immediately become a staff favorite.

The boy’s mom and dad recently dropped off poppy seed cookies as a treat for the pool’s employees.

“Thank you so much for helping make our summer much cooler and enjoyable,” read the handwritten note accompanying the cookies. “We have cherished getting to know all of you and are looking forward to next year.”

If summer has to end, the Zumba Queen figured at least she could go out with a splash.

With DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win” remix pumped up to high volume on the boom box, 46 women and one brave man in the Patterson Park Pool re-created the movements that Branch was fluidly demonstrating on land — even when she made them do push-ups on the pool ledge.

Class attendees groaned but obeyed. They knew that Branch, a dispatcher for the Baltimore Police Department, means business.

“If anyone stops,” the Zumba Queen said, “this song starts over.”

The people who feel summer’s end most keenly may be kids like Talia, who on Tuesday will wake up earlier than she has in months to walk through the big front door of Gwynns Falls Elementary School. She wonders if her gray-and-white cat, Patches, will miss her during the day.

“Sometimes, he’s waiting at the door when I come home,” she said.

But over the summer Talia gained important new skills. Now, she’s brave enough to jump off the ledge and directly into the chilly pool instead of having to wade in one toe at a time like the little kids do.

Her newfound self-confidence should come in handy as she navigates the deep waters of the second grade.

Carter, a librarian at Cross Country Elementary/Middle School, feels rejuvenated after the summer off.

“I do look forward to going back to school," she said.

"I love my children and I love my job. It’s worth it when a little light bulb goes off in one of your students’ eyes, and you see it. It’s worth it when I signed up my whole class for YouthWorks Baltimore and most of them got summer jobs. It’s worth it when I take my kids to a museum — and for the first time, some of them go outside the four-block radius around where they were born.

“It can be exhausting, and that’s why I needed the summer to recharge. But, I’m ready to go back.”

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