A Childhood Dream Come True

Recently, when I was floating lazily in my backyard pool on a bright summer day, I found myself drinking in the cool deliciousness of my situation, and that caused me to wonder if I ever take for granted having a pool, which at one time in my life seemed an unreachable and unattainable luxury. I am a very grateful person, and I express gratitude and thankfulness often, yet I don’t know if I ever put my gratitude into words for my pool. Although I did write my essay “Swimming with the Beatles” that was reprinted in several publications as well as on my own blog, I never explained the long fascination I had with those giant and expensive holes in the ground known as backyard swimming pools.

I have often written about my lower-middle-class upbringing, where money was scarce and where my only hope for a better life was education and career, and I must say that I have worked very hard my entire life (starting work at the age of ten and working my way through college and graduate school) for my current lifestyle. Due to the years of hard work, I never take my lifestyle and my luxuries for granted. Nothing was just handed to me, ever. Every opportunity presented to me was well earned with both hard work and education.

When I was growing up, no one had an “in-ground” backyard swimming pool that I knew of, and though some belonged to a swim club, the concrete row-homes that we resided in did not lend itself to a backyard luxury such as a pool. We had heard of rich suburban kids who lived like that, but in my neighborhood, it was not possible. I knew of literally NO ONE who had a pool.

We had a community pool at a playground called Max Myers which was located a short walking distance away. I grew up going there on “girls days” with my rubber bathing cap and my swimsuit folded up in my towel. Boys had to swim on alternate days, on “boys days” and if it rained on a girls’ day, I was out of luck until the next one rolled around. In those days, the pool was wall-to-wall packed with same-gendered children of all ages. I guess being city-bound surrounded by concrete and row-homes we were fortunate to have a free pool to use where no membership was required.

I occasionally was invited to and went to a swim club that my beloved aunt and uncle belonged to called the Dolphin Swim Club. Those days were treats beyond all measure, splashing around with my first cousins.

I was lucky enough to go to day camp briefly – I believe it was Frontier Day Camp, and then overnight camp – all Jewish subsidized ones – and I learned how to swim well and enjoy the pools at both places. I was like a fish in the water. I always loved the smell of chlorine and the coolness of a pool on a summer day, and I became a strong and good swimmer. I always made good use of any opportunity for pool time that I ever had.

Still, through my growing up and teenage years, I still knew of no one who actually had a pool at their residence. I even babysat for many families in a higher income bracket, in more suburban areas, and never saw one.

Then one summer day my high school boyfriend told me that his cousin was having a swim party at her backyard pool and that we were invited. I was sixteen, and incredulous that I would experience a backyard swimming pool. It is such a vivid memory, well recorded in my diary, that I can remember my exact bathing suit worn and just wish I had photos to show- a red-flowered bikini with a bit of a ruffle on the top and bottom. I might not have had regular access to a pool, but I was always beach-ready with the cutest swimsuits.

As I think back to that day of splashy fun with my boyfriend and other kids our age, I remember bumping into my eighth-grade boyfriend Guy there, who moved away in ninth grade and who I had not seen since he moved away. He attended the same high school as my boyfriend’s cousin. (As an aside, I wrote a whole blog on Guy titled “When James Dean Goes Soft” way back at the start of my blogging. He was a rebel but then became a community leader.)

After the afternoon of that pool party excitement, I talked the entire drive home about how lucky people were who had backyard pools, and that I aspired to have one of my own someday. I just knew even back then, that I could make my own dreams come true. I believed, and then made it happen.

It was fun going back in time to remembering when a pool was just an elusive dream and something I thought only rich people could own. It is true that you need more of a backyard than a row home offers, but where I live in Houston, there are many pool owners since the weather is so hot and the season is so long. It is certainly not the rarity it used to be, and I am sure that is true outside of Houston as well.

When my adult children come over and spend some time in the pool, it becomes even more appreciated and priceless. I look forward to having little kids splash around in it for many years to come with the grandchildren coming around. It will bring back the days when my own children grew up with their friends coming over to enjoy it. (Again read Swimming with the Beatles for how it was built-in summer entertainment for my kids and their friends.)

A friend recently posted on a social media site that a person has to realize that each individual alone is responsible for their own happiness. I not only subscribe to that theory as I have always intentionally built my adult life and situations for ultimate happiness and fulfillment, but I also enjoy making my own fairy tale dreams come true from childhood through hard work and earned success. Full disclosure: And that includes having another fun summer place in our own beach place, also a childhood dream come true. It is a frequent discussion between my bestie and me on our long beach walks how very grateful and privileged we are to have a beach place and we both vow never to take it for granted.

This is really less about having a pool and more about creating your own destiny. I have had my share of very hard luck, like many, but I am a scrapper, and come charging back every single time.

4 comments

  • arnold witkin

    fantastic blog… i can truly relate… hard work and education lead to dreams fulfilled !!!!!!

  • Marc Goldstein

    Took swimming lessons at Max Myers and went to Frontier for a year (Mr. Kouzak). Moved to Montclair in 3rd grade and felt rich swimming at Parkcrest Swim Club.

  • Barbara Ettinger

    I love my pool as well. When Brian and I started dating, he invited me over to his Aunt Irenes and Uncle Henry’s pool located in Huntingdon Valley. It was huge and was on a spacious piece of property. I thought It was the hipper, more modern , female version of Gatsby. I learned how to swim at Jardel. Girls days were Mondays, Wednesday’s and Friday’s, boys days were Tuesdays, Thursday’s and Saturday’s and Sunday was Family Day. No way my mother was going to that cement pool. My neighbors, The Graef’s would let me go with them on Sunday. They were all Nortic looking with blonde hair, blue eyes and back then I fit in with them and was grateful they let me go with them. And, I haven’t even mentioned how much I loved the swim meets at at Camp Council . Nothing made me happier than winning the swim meets from
    The girls at the “fru-fru” camps. But, back to Jardel. I loved that cement pool. And I’d get water ice and a soft pretzel from the truck for 25 cents. In the winter, they would drain it, and we would climb down the ladder and roller skate down there for hours. Great memories. Thanks for the tour down memory lane.

    • Thanks for sharing your memories Barb, I guess you had in Jardel what I had in Maxies. It was great for us city kids. I remember you being Camper of the Year or some such honor – no doubt due to your swim meet prowess while at Camp Council. I meant to write a blog about that one some day. Fun times there.

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