Early Fall

I’m draining the pool.

It’s nostalgia, sad and sweet. This was the best summer yet, though it was short because the San Juan schools granted students only seven weeks of time off.

Our backyard inflatable pool tradition started when Matthew was two. On a whim, I bought an 11’ long Aero wading pool from an on line deals site. I was kind of disappointed when it arrived, as it held only about eighteen inches of water. Matthew, however, loved it. He could barely talk, but would say “pool! pool! pool!” every day until we got in it. He could run and crash against the inflated sides and splash cold water on all who ventured near.

When Josh came along, he also loved the pool. He would spend every available moment in it, kicking water into the sunny air and yelling “Snorkle!” (“sparkle”). The summer he turned four, however, it was clear that he and Matthew had both outgrown the pool and, though we had replaced it a time or two, the latest one was full of unpatchable pinhole air leaks. I decided that it was time to find a larger one.

The old pool had been called an “eleven foot long” pool. I didn’t think the fifteen foot round Intex pool would be a whole lot bigger, but Josh was excitedly awaiting the arrival of the “bigger, rounder pool.”

It arrived in a deceptively small box. I began unboxing: a 15’ round, 48” deep pool; a ladder, a pump and filter (the 11’ pool just got drained and refilled every day or two), a skimmer, a cover, a ground cloth. The thing was huge beyond my imagination, holding 3,700 gallons of water. And it was fun.

This was the Bigger, Rounder Pool’s third summer. I wasn’t sure it would last even two seasons, but it has come through its third with only a few small leaks. What an awesome centerpiece for a rich summer! For the first weeks of summer, we were in the pool every day. We’d swim, pick raspberries and figs, swim some more, ride tractors, swim some more, then indoors for Minecraft, foosball, meals, typing, writing, videos, reading, and bed.

It wasn’t all unscheduled decadence. Josh was enrolled in competitive swimming which meant practice every day through July plus all-day Saturday meets. Both Josh and Matthew had three or four week-long “camp” activities each. We spent a soul-restoring week at a beautiful, isolated beach house near Castroville—a welcome, low-key alternative to our usual Disneyland trip. Josh and Matthew spent a week with their mother while I had my third (and final!?!) eye surgery. We pretty much filled up the brief seven-week vacation but oh, those precious days of pool and berries and shave ice and figs and pizza and Minecraft and no schedule at all. Summer should always be like this!

The pool is draining, and it won’t be worth patching for next year. I took my last swim on this 90° day solo — Matthew and Josh are away, and I bid it adieu, three summers of extraordinary fun (and reduced air conditioning bills) for $300. I already miss the sound of the pump gurgling outside the window. The pool’s eighteen-foot cousin, bought at end-of-season prices, sits in an improbably small box in the garage waiting for the first 90° day of June.

The Bigger, Rounder Pool era has passed, but the joy of it will linger.

–Ron Risley 08September2012