Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Night Swimming

Sometime in the mid-1960’s, my great grandfather, Granddaddy Bee, donated land to a local trust to build a community pool in the rural Virginia farmland where my grandmother grew up.

Other gentlemen farmers from the area contributed resources and a small, country swimming pool opened to serve the local population.

There has never been a lifeguard on duty there.

No whistles are blown.

No one shouts, “no running!” and there’s no such thing as “Adult Swim.”

There have been numerous jumps off the pool house roof into too shallow water, many attempts to capture a greased watermelon bobbing in the pool long after dark has fallen, hundreds of vigorous games of beach volleyball in the sandy court behind the pool and thousands of cans of beer fervently sipped by underage drinkers.

A life time of memories of my summer visits to my great-grandmother’s house, and later, after she and my grandfather retired there, to my grandparents house are inextricably linked to this country pool, lost in time.

Before my grandparents moved back to the farm, I rode from my great-grandparents house to the pool in the bed of a pick-up truck along with remnants of hay and silage, bumping and tossing from one side of the truck to the other on the uneven country roads and dirt lanes.

My grandparent’s house sits on a piece of the family farm land adjacent to the pool and, since they built there, getting to the pool involves only a walk down a rough path mown the length of the overgrown meadow separating the two properties.

These days, we clomp through the spiky, minefield of balls from the Sweet Gum trees pulling wagon loads of floating rings and pool toys for The Mayor, The Rooster and their cousins.


Just as it was for me, The Mayor and The Rooster are related to almost everyone they meet at the pool.

On the fourth of July, they spent the entire day back and forth between the pool and my Granny’s house.

I don’t think clothes or underwear every came out of their suitcases that day.

I lost count, but upwards of 50 relatives stopped by for our annual covered dish affair.

My Aunt bought 20 pounds of pulled pork barbecue and some obscene amount of slaw.

[Which meant there was some serious over-eating to be done on my part!]

After dark, that same Aunt doled out glow stick bracelets and necklaces by the gross.

The children looked like aboriginal glow aliens.

My cousin Colin set off a cache of fireworks purchased at the state-line and, while his display didn’t have quite the same awe factor that a municipality’s fireworks might, there were no crowds, nor issues with parking.

There were only “ooohs and aaaahs.”

We appreciated the show. We clapped. It was perfect.

Afterward, my cousin Kaycee insisted on being baptized in the pool, having never been baptized in real life.

And so it came to pass that she was baptized.

On our last night in Virginia, my cousin Leslie stopped by after dinner to tell me she was at the pool with her kids.

The Mayor and The Rooster changed back into their still dripping suits and dashed back down the path to the pool.

When the sun sank, and the sky darkened, we flipped on the pool’s night lights.

“Pool Party!!!” The kids screamed.

They swam until long after dark, squealing and shrieking, reminding me of being little and up late at this pool.

I remember thinking something incredible must have been happening to be, not just awake that late, but swimming and playing in the pool after dark.

I smiled watching my kids have the same experience, while playing with the children of one of the cousins with whom I did the same things.

Bat wing flashed in the brightness of the pool lights as they swooped over the pool again and again catching their evening meal and I was grateful for them and for all of it.


Sayre said...

Wow - I was just jerked back in time to the summers I spent at Nantahala with my great grandmother, grandmother, great aunt and numerous cousins. We'd make the trek to the pool and rec hall every night and bats would swoop down on us too.

Your kids are lucky that they get to participate in this particular familial rite. My son probably won't ever go to Nantahala, but he can make his own bat memories in our own backyard.

Mary G said...

What a great story! And what a clever idea of your great(?) grandfather.
The pool sounds like the kind of connection that forms part of the structure of your life.
Also, well told!

Ponygirl said...

Beautiful story. Did the covered dishes include berry dumplings? I still remember them. Mmmmmm.

John Ross said...

A lovely story, told well, the photo bringing visions of Norman Rockwell treatments. thanks for sharing that, and keep doing that some more, please

R said...

that brings back great memories for me of being at the cabin on the river up north when I was younger... what great times... thanks :)

JoeinVegas said...

Nice to have a big family you can get together with.

coldspaghetti said...

Love this. What a rockin' Grandaddy and fantastic that your family continues to make the time and space to make these special memories!

Jenifer said...

That is a wonderful story and what memories your kids will carry with many generations coming together, something to cherish for sure.

paula said...

That was fantastic -- both the story and the telling of it. Ah, memories. Those we have and those we make for our children...there's nothin' better.

Cynthia said...

so very lovely to have a place for extended family to gather. makes me long for such things, in all respects.

Loco YaYa said...

what a wonderful memory for you and now for the kids. i love the moments that i see my kids getting to make a memory that i made so long ago.

Emily N said...

Sounds sublime. What a gift to be able to give your kids. (And yourselves!)