With summer heating up and school winding down, I’m having second thoughts about not joining a pool this year.
Despite six years in Baltimore, there’s still enough New Yorker in me to feel entitled to walkable amenities. I want a pool we can reach by bike or on foot. I want my children to have the exposure to and comfort in water that I got growing up in rural Virginia. Swimming lessons will help, but I’m convinced we’ll get there simply by hanging out at the pool a lot.
A pool half a mile away suits perfectly, but as nonresidents, we automatically go on a wait list. This is our third year of waiting. And I nagged the pool committee enough to find we’re in the top 10 on the list. Ugh.
It sounds horribly snobby, but I understand why neighborhood residents get priority. I’m willing to wait, however, because it’s in a neighborhood that feeds into our middle school and high school. My kids’ pool buddies will be their classmates later on. And the pool is close enough that once they’re older, my kids could go there on their own.
Growing up in rural Virginia, I always enjoyed a pool at my next-door neighbors’ house. But none of their kids were my age, and we eventually joined a pool about five miles from home – one of three in the whole county. The only way to get there was to beg Mom or my big sister for a ride. I eventually spent several summers on the swim team and made good money as a lifeguard and swim instructor in college.
For the past two years in Baltimore, we joined a pool that friends recommended based on low cost and lack of pretention. The pool manager even saved me a bundle by suggesting that my son and I join as a couple. My young daughter came for free, and we paid guest fees for the half-dozen times my wife came.
This pool was laid-back in the extreme: swim classes were at posted times, but you never had to sign up. You bought lessons in bunches, and you could come whichever and however many days you want. More often than not, no other kids showed; Eddie got a private lesson. The huge downer, however, was that driving home always came at rush hour and took three times longer than it ought to.
The best thing about this pool was that it was racially diverse. In Baltimore! We quickly found that compared with New York, Baltimore is a black and white town with the occasional ethnic pocket. But at this pool, it was complete serendipity: blacks and whites swimming together!
Last year, our coveted close-by pool offered us an August membership. Summer in Baltimore completely halts then, and they must have been desperate. We had already sunk our pool cash elsewhere for the year, however.
I’m trying to convince myself that we’ll get by without a pool this year. School lets out late (June 18) and resumes early (August 30). I plan to get a lot of mileage out of our schizophrenic $6 sprinkler and the kiddie pool in the yard, which our 7-year-old has not yet declared too babyish.
Plus, we’ll be away a lot. There’s a beach week here and there, and we expect to visit the in-laws in Georgia for a week to provide entertainment to my mother-in-law after her knee replacement. Then there’s vacation bible school, and maybe a week of half-day soccer camp for Eddie and half-day dance camp for Carla. Plus, I’m looking into swim lessons at the Y. With all that, we probably can’t afford a pool membership, anyway!
Nevertheless, it’s going to be a long summer.
If the nearby pool calls to offer an August membership, you can be sure we’ll sign up in an instant.