Growing up by the pool, waiting for a new generation to take the plunge

I have been a member in good standing at my community swimming pool from almost the moment I knew I was pregnant.

That's probably because my sisters and I grew up at a community pool. Literally.


From swim team practices in the morning to afternoons of pool tag and, finally, to swim meets at night. We lived on French fries and grilled cheese sandwiches from the snack bar.

Our fingers and toes were always so wrinkly that my mother felt safe sending us to bed without a bath. By the end of summer, our hair was the color — and texture — of straw.


I knew I wanted the same for my kids, so I plunked down money for a pool bond and then my annual dues before my kids were out of diapers.

Over the years, we made all the pool memories I imagined we would.

Early morning swim team practices and afternoons watching the kids wear themselves out playing Marco Polo. The lifeguards sentencing my son Joseph and his buddies to time under the chair for bad behavior. My daughter Jessica and her friends chattering to each other and to the dolls and the My Little Ponies they brought along.

The kids would sit on the sides of the pool during adult swims while my friends and I would stand, waist-deep in the cool water, and talk. Impatient for the 15 minutes to be up, they would make fake whistle sounds while the lifeguard ignored them.

I remember fretting about deep water tests the way I one day fretted about the SATs. I watched cliques form and friendships end. I saw the little boys, who could barely swim from one end of the pool to the other, grow into muscled teenagers who would swim an individual medley — four lengths of the pool in four different strokes — and bounce out of the water barely breathing hard.

I remember Sundays at the pool, when the mothers were replaced by fathers, who mistakenly thought you could read a newspaper while watching your kids at the pool.

I remember Joseph and his friend, Paul, opening their own snack bar at the pool, selling peanut butter crackers and juice boxes for quarters. Paul was soon bored and back in the water, but Joe would spent the hot afternoons in a lawn chair, patiently waiting for customers. The ant and the grasshopper.

Sometimes we'd have dinner there (the pizza delivery guy spent the summer making 20 trips a day to our pool). And sometimes my friend Joe Macknis and I would take our kids to the pool after dinner, to wear them out and clean them up.


We would carry their bodies, heavy with sleep and smelling of chlorine, up to bed as dusk settled into night.

Years later, it would be Joseph and his Naval Academy friends walking to the pool — they were not permitted to drive then — and walking home again. And then devouring pots of spaghetti or stacks of hamburgers. I remember how grateful they were for the break from summer duty.

I gave my passes to a pair of visitors from the British Isles last summer, and they were amazed neighbors would share their resources to create such places for mothers and their children in this country. I laughed and asked what their mothers did with them while they were growing up.

It has been almost 30 years, and I still belong to my community pool. But I hardly ever see the place.

These days, Joseph kayaks in the Pacific Ocean and Jessie and her girlfriends found a pool that is more fun. It has a bar.

My husband hasn't been to the pool since he was a timer at swim meets years ago. And I make it there with a book on maybe two Sundays out of an entire summer of Sundays.


We sure aren't getting our money's worth out of the pool these days, but, considering all the days and hours we spent there over the years, I figure we're about even.

Why have I paid my dues every spring when no one goes anymore?

Simple. I have been waiting until it was time to take the next generation to the pool.

My grandson Michael will be 7 months old when he visits this summer. Just the right age for the baby pool.

Susan Reimer's column appears Mondays. Her email is