Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Liquid ice

Today was a banner day. Today was our first day back at the swim club, the same swim club we pined for last winter when the snow lay just over two feet deep on the ground and the wind on our faces felt like the blades on Struwwelpeter's hands, only sharper. And colder.

I took the girls today, even though I knew that the water in the enormous pool at the club would feel like Struwwelpeter had been stirring it with his knifey fingers. I armed myself with a notebook, a pen, several books and a pile of homeschool curriculum catalogs and remained firmly arrayed in my street clothes. The girls decked themselves out in bathing suits, sunglasses and a sticky layer of sunscreen that smelled strongly of bananas. We looked like we weren't going to the same place.

Bananas might protect you from the sun, but they do nothing to counteract cardiac arrest. Unless the person administering CPR is also wearing banana-scented sunscreen. And I've never known anything more likely to induce heart-stoppage than diving into a pool that has been filled with the stuff they chipped off the berg that sank the Titanic.

Heinrich Hoffman's Stuwwelpeter. I wonder what he'd look like in a
Speedo? Eeeek....

Meelyn and Aisling are made of sterner stuff. They flung down their towels and their swim bags and headed for the water; I adjusted the back of my deck chair to a more comfortable angle, took out my book and sighed contentedly, looking at the turquoise blue water and listening to the happy, high-pitched voices of the children. The local oldies station played "Band on the Run," which made me want to either laugh or sigh, I'm not sure which. I was going into seventh grade the summer Paul McCartney and Wings had a hit with that song and it feels really weird when the songs you heard in your youth are now considered vintage. Elvis, the Supremes and Buddy Holly -- now those are the oldies.

The girls and I celebrated our return to the pool by getting faux-fruit slushies (for them) and a large Diet Coke (for me), plus nachos. It is the essence of summer to sit on the edges of our chairs, eating the nacho chips with sauce smearing on our chins, slurping our drinks and trying to keep the napkins from blowing away into the pool.

It's the essence of summer to see one child jump heedlessly into the pool and come gasping to the surface with eyes like dinner plates to call meanly to his companion, "J-jump on in!...It's...n-not...c-cold!" and then to hear the friend jeer, "You big LIAR!!!!"

It's the essence of summer to see people I haven't seen since last August (or if I have, I haven't recognized them, seeing as how they were probably dressed and all) to walk to a chair saying, "Hi! How was your...year? Back-to-school, trick-or-treat, Thanksgiving, Christmas, the doldrums of winter, spring break, Easter, spring, finals? How was all of it, for you and your family, since the last time we saw each other?

We were most affected by the sight of one particular person, one young man known as T.J. He's the one who had a major crush on Aisling last year and followed her around, begging her to come play with him. Last summer, Aisling was not-quite-eleven and T.J. was ten, a fact that made my husband tease Aisling unmercifully by saying, "Teeeeeeeeeejaaaaaaaaaay....woo!!! T. J. is likin' the laaaay-dies! The older ladies!"

T.J. made the critical error of addressing Aisling as "hot stuff" once last year when she wanted to get out of the pool and he didn't. Aisling was outraged and drew herself up to her full height, which isn't very tall, and stalked offendedly to my side, saying with her teeth clenched, "That....that....person called me a terrible name."

I put down my book, concerned. I mean, you just never know these days. "What did he call you?"

Aisling's lips curled in disdain. "'Hot stuff,'" she said fiercely. "Hot stuff! What made him think he could do something like that?" I pondered this, thinking that it was a good thing that he'd caught her off guard because knowing Aisling, she might have held his head under the water until he repented and agreed to always address her as 'your royal highness' in the future.

Anyway, T.J. saw Aisling as we were schlepping all our gear into the ladies' locker room and she reported that he was wearing a smile that stretched from ear to ear when their eyes met. This year, she didn't seem quite as repulsed by his presence as she was last year. Hmm.

Meelyn was keeping a sharp eye out for cute boys, mostly because she's in last year's bathing suit, which she feels is now too low cut. And I completely agree with her; there have been some...developments this year. "I don't want to put on a show," she said nervously. "One false move in this rag and I am toast."

"We'll get something for you this weekend, honey," I promised.

The radio switched to playing "If I Can't Have You" by Yvonne Elliman, which is either a passionate love song or the ravings of a psycho stalker, depending perhaps on how old you are. The girls splashed and laughed in the water and I blissfully let the late afternoon sun sink into my bones as I turned the pages of my book.

It is so good to be back at the pool. Maybe in a couple of weeks the water will have warmed up enough that I'll actually be willing to get in.

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