Friday, May 30, 2008

Summer snapshot

In honor of post number 100—yes, that is correct, 100—I am penning (figuratively speaking, of course) a real, true memoir. I’ll begin to type it as soon as I recover from the shock of realizing that I’ve now sat on 100 separate occasions and confessed to a keyboard what I’m thinking and feeling. What a bizarre world we have created for ourselves.

All right, I’m over it now.

A hazy, idyllic memory:

Three little girls, all in pigtails, on a very steamy summer’s day. Likely a Saturday, since the little girls’ father is there with them, and he wasn’t a man of frequent days off. The pigtailed girls are all fairly young, no teens among them yet, and they are innocent as the sky. They’re all wearing bathing suits, and they’re all tailing with giggles after the dad, who lugs a large and awkward piece of aqua blue plastic.

A pool liner.

Oh, the girls have a pool? No. Then why the excitement? Why are the little pigtails all aflutter? Why the bathing suits? Keep watching, now; you’ll figure it out.

The patient father, followed by his gaggle, drags and then positions the ungainly liner over a small footbridge constructed of 4 x 4 posts. The girls try to assist him, but in reality they are likely more of a hindrance. The small bridge that’s being covered crosses a small creek, maybe a foot at its widest point. It’s a shallow little creek, nothing impressive about it. Even after storms, it doesn’t do much raging.

And yet. That bridge rests above the creek by a good two feet. And it’s a deep creek, cutting a gash in the back yard through which it runs. And when a waterproof pool liner is positioned just right over the top of the bridge and into that gash of a little creek, water begins to collect there. And more water.

And suddenly, there is a rather substantial amount of water pooled before the bridge.

It is not swimming pool water. It is creek water. It’s cloudy, even muddy depending on how much activity is occurring in the “pool,” but that’s not the most important thing to know about it: It’s beyond brisk. It is cold.

The creek comes from a natural spring, far up the hillside; sometimes it contains runoff from a reservoir on that same hill. This is the 1970s, before mine subsidence had diminished that stream to a trickle. And whatever the source of that water, deep in the earth, it’s kept to a rather bone-chilling temperature. Even on a hot, hot day, it can take away a little girl’s breath.

The pigtails watch the water accumulate, dip their toes in, gasp at its frigidity, giggle some more, and wait. It’s halfway up to the bridge, it’s rising. It’s nearly to the same level as the bridge! It’s so deep! Or at least it seems that way in my memory.

I’m the youngest girl, around 6 or so, and all I can think about as I watch that water level rise is the creepy crawly wormy things that may or may not be collecting there. After all, I can’t see beneath the clouded surface. There might even be a snake in there, some confused and angry reptile that’s just waiting in his frustration for a small body to bite. But it’s so hot. And I’m so hot. And I don’t want to be the only one who doesn’t get in.

The water is high enough to merit our entrance now, and we gingerly step into the cold. I seem to recall one sister plunging in boldly. I am the cowardly one, of course, picturing earthworms and slimy things and many-legged critters swimming ‘round my toes. But the chilly wet is intoxicating and addictive, and soon my fears are banished and I get in to my neck. If you sit right beside the bridge, the pool is a couple feet deep at least, plenty deep enough to immerse yourself if you so choose. And it just feels so good to be in that cold, with the relentless sun reflecting on the muddy surface and a balmy breeze in your face and hair. It’s not a swimming pool, but it feels like a distant cousin of one to these country girls. We splash each other and laugh and drink it all in—not the water, but the moment, the all-encompassing, shivery joie de vivre.

My mom is there too, although I don’t recall her actually getting in all the way. My dad might have gotten wet, but he is even these days remiss to wear shorts, so if he did submerge any part of himself, I’ll bet it was only for a moment. We "swim" and the pony across the fence watches us, bemused, swishing his tail and shaking his head at the endless onslaught of flies. It’s quite likely he is jealous of our bliss.


There’s a photo of this event. It’s in an album at my parents’ home—the same home where we swam in that fancy pool. The ponies are long gone on to a better place; the creek has dwindled and sometimes, after a dry spell, it’s completely absent. I wonder how much of that day I really remember, and how much I’ve created in my mind. I still have an inexplicable fear of earthworms; would I have the nerve to climb in that icy, muddy water today? I like to think I would…if the day were hot enough.

Happy summering to you.


Athelas63 said...

Oh, I remember those days. When summer lasted forever and afternoons could be spent reading in the porch swing or standing in the front yard trying to get the truck drivers to blow their horns. The idyllic life of our childhood. Thanks for the nice memory. PS - I NEVER saw a snake in that "pool!"

Mel said...

I know, I didn't either. But it crossed my mind every time. Unlikely--but most fears aren't grounded in logic, really. ; )