No room at the deep end
When I was still in grade school we lived outside of town. Going in to town was a highlight because there was a pool.
Specifically, there was a park with an outdoor pool for kids. The pool had been there since the 1930s – a long time before I ventured into it. Still, when I was the right age I liked to think of the pool as “my” pool.
Everyone knew of the park and at various times had gone to the pool. It opened late in the day (after lunch) and had no heating. There was a small area where babies could wade but most of the pool was the same depth and it felt too deep for a short kid like me.
The pool itself was pretty minimalistic – more like a skate park with its stark slopes of faded teal paint. There were no slides, no whirlpools, water fountains or spray toys. But it didn’t much matter: in the summertime it was perfect for cooling off.
I remember a day when a friend of mine and I ended up there. It was summer, and it was hot. We’d been waiting in the heat for the pool to open. I think I probably forgot my towel, because I forgot things at that age. We didn’t care – we were happy to finally get into the water.
In the relief and joy at finally feeling cooled off we failed to notice the lifeguards walking the pool deck. Some things you don’t notice til after the fact – like the police car parked on the street as you rush to make the yellow light in traffic. Unfortunately, it was a lifeguard who kicked us out of the pool.
I wasn’t a crazy and rebellious kid. I was more likely the kid voted “lemming” than to lead a break-away faction against normalcy. I was shy and wanted to just be the same as everyone else. I kept my head down and if something didn’t concern me I tried to pretend it didn’t exist.
There may have been signage at the pool. I doubt I would have read it. The signage may have explained that age restrictions for the pool were for those 12 years and under. I was a short kid so I could be as old as I was, or as young as I wanted to say I was.
My friend was already 12. My birthday was at the other end of the year so not only could I barely keep my head and chest out of the water I was also really only half-way through being 11. The lifeguard spotted us – my taller friend and me (doing my best to be the same as everyone else) frolicking in the water. He asked us how old we were.
I probably ignored him, worried about confrontations. He honed in on us and my friend finally admitted that she was ‘too old’ for this pool. “But,” she added in my defence and pointing, “she’s only 11!”
My memory fades after this. We probably got out and got changed. We probably weren’t as hot, but the experience at the pool had soured the afternoon of fun. Even though my feet could barely touch in the deep end, we were kicked out for surpassing an age limit. The irony of being too old for something, so early on in life, has cautioned me about being truthful about my age.
I look for the sign if I take my kids to that pool – the sign that limits admittance by age. I’m not sure if I’ve seen it. Or maybe it’s there and I just don’t want the reminder. Instead, I don’t notice it.
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