Tales From the Backyard Pool

In 2007, I was privileged to be interviewed by American Public Radio for a program called Tales From the Back Yard Pool. The interview was based on this essay I submitted:

Dog-day heat and humidity defined our summer days while growing up in Marion, Ohio. So it made perfectly good sense when our newly-widowed mother decided to purchase an above-ground swimming pool in 1970. Always one to pinch her pennies, she decided that we would install it ourselves.

I was the middle child and seven years old; my brother was ten and my sister was five. We quickly embraced our mother’s spirit and spent countless hours wrestling with the pool wall, then the liner. We would break for a lunch of baloney sandwiches and potato chips, with plenty of Kool-aid to go around.

“Pull it tighter!” Mom bellowed from my right. “There, like that. Good job!”

Neither beating sun nor bothersome allergies robbed us of our focus. Within a week, we stood marveling at the product of our labor. We were proud of ourselves and more than ready for a swim. Mom turned on the garden hose and placed it among the creases on the bottom of our pool with, as it turned out, its accidental shallow end and deep end. It would take many days to fill that pool with the icy-cold water, but the best swim ever was well worth the wait.

We lived in that pool, with our rafts, beach balls and inner-tubes. We’d only get out for meals and trips to the bathroom. When Mom would have to go inside the house, she’d make us kids hang from the sides of the pool and sing so she would know we weren’t drowning.

Every September, Mom would empty out most of the water. Every May, we would climb in the pool and clean out the dead bugs and other winter debris floating in the murky, muddy water, careful not to collapse the pool walls.

We swam in that pool for 10 years. It remained a fixture in our backyard through first communions, teenage angst and high school graduations. When at long last the liner finally tore, our swimming days came to an end there on Uhler Avenue. Still, long after we’ve hung up our towels, the memories linger.

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