NOTHING signals the end of summer so definitively as the Labor Day weekend closing of our swimming pool.
Peaches, tomatoes, corn and crabs may be finishing their seasons, the World Series may be fast approaching and fourth grade may loom like a specter on my young son's immediate horizon. But until Swan Lake closes, we can fool ourselves into thinking that summer will last forever.
Swan Lake, like other public and private pools throughout the metropolitan area, is an oasis from Baltimore's notorious summer heat and humidity. Hidden behind a line of trees, the pool club has thrived for 46 years where Belvedere Avenue and Woodbourne Avenue meet Perring Parkway. Its seclusion, I suppose, contributes to the feeling of members that they are far away and on vacation -- even if for only a Friday night dip.
More than a place on the map, though, Swan Lake is a place in time where life is measured in passing summer seasons.
The Memorial Day weekend opening of the pool brings newborns, pregnant mothers, sinewy young adults, balding men and others hidden since the close of the pool the last Labor Day weekend.
The roughneck boys of a summer ago have become the no-nonsense lifeguards of this summer. They are quick to whistle the attention of younger kids caught running on the pool deck, to stop "chicken fights" in a crowded area or to discourage the kind of roughhousing the lifeguards themselves did only a year ago.
The giggly girls of last summer are this season's flowering young women walking with practiced poise and pride in their mature appearances. Several ingenues from summers ago are this year's first-time expectant mothers carrying their plump middles with obvious satisfaction and grateful to have the cool water for exercise during the hottest months of their pregnancies.
New moms and dads dangle their chubby infants at the water's edge hoping someone will ask, "How old is your baby?" or remark, "Does he like the water?"
When my wife was three months pregnant with our only child, I introduced myself to a young couple with a 6-month-old. I was thrilled to think that in one year, my wife and I would be dipping our own child of just that age in the kiddy pool. Our son is now a 9-year-old string bean who loves to climb up my back and stand on my shoulders in the deep end of the pool. And the other couple's infant is magically a freckled-face girl of 10.
From their lounge chairs at the edge of the pool, the older folks are glad to have this place to unwind with its vantage point on the young. I once read that in times of severe drought, animals in Africa will share what little water they have in small pools and puddles without the usual competition of predators for prey.
I have not encountered lions lying down with lambs at Swan Lake, but on recliners at poolside, I have seen lawyers lying next to social workers, salespeople next to graphic artists, and IRS administrators next to midwives. How nice to have a place for relaxation without fear of being eaten.
Speaking of eating, I'd better hurry. Hot dogs are half-priced. The free beer is mostly fizz from the bottom of the keg. Adolescent pool staff are folding lounge chairs and lowering the flag. The free book rack is being wheeled inside for the winter. Last chance to rifle the lost and found items before they are donated to Goodwill. Swan Lake is closing for the season.
So much will be different next Memorial Day weekend -- so many fruits of today's expectations, so many surprises.
Michael T. Bornemann is residential site manager of a facility operated by Francis X. Gallagher Services for men with developmental disabilities.