The morality of backyard pools

When we were girls, my mom always told Ashley and I that a pool was more trouble than it was worth.

And we wanted a pool so awfully it made us tremble to think about it, with glistening blue water and long plastic pool chairs and inflatables. We wanted to wake up on a hot day, take our jelly toast out on the pool deck, and flip through a stack of library books until our skin was hot as a baked potato, and then, glory to God, would come the ultimate moment of happiness: when we donned goggles and stood at the edge and took the plunge into our own clean, cool, private pool! Instant worlds of wonder, the chance to be a dolphin or a mermaid without even leaving the backyard! What could be better?

Of course, because I considered my mom the ultimate voice of common sense, truth, and wisdom (she still is pretty high up there today), I swallowed this proverb she spouted with acceptance, as if it came from a fortune cookie. A pool is more trouble than it’s worth. Who needed a pool? And whenever a friend or neighbor had a pool in subsequent years, I stuck my nose in the air and murmured little comments… have to clean it… Expensive… Not worth the trouble… Everybody and their stinking dog wants to come swim in it . You’d have to have people over all the time, Guru Mommy pointed out once, and I nodded like this was enough to shun pools forever.

Of course, when our church friend Debra graciously invited us over on hot summer days to swim in HER pool, all judgmental thoughts flew out of my little head. How wonderful to own a pool! To float on noodles and then go in for a turkey sandwich, and go right back in the water! No car time, no need to wear a cover-up! It was too much trouble for us, yes, but for Debra- what a right and wonderful thing! I always considered her half-god and half-frivolous-sinner, knowing what my mom said about the moral goodness of pool ownership, the proverb. The proverb! the annotated version being that pools were not for the normal citizen with responsibilities, bills, kids to put through school- a pool was an extra. An unnecessary luxury!

I realize now that my mom had many things to consider that provoked her to decide for our family that a pool was too much trouble. But she had nothing against pools and only made her statement most likely to curb our disappointment about belonging to a grimy community center instead of digging up the backyard to install a water park.

Plus, I’m sure the thought of owning a pool sounded just as nice to her, too, in theory- just not practical for us. In retrospect, this is why she could enjoy Debra’s pool in peace and I swam frantically… Was it okay to own a pool? Was I, by enjoying the extravagant pleasure of backyard swimming, going against everything we believed?

Yesterday my family flew into LAX and drove to La Jolla. We’re renting a little house with vines and flowers and darling patio furniture, with beach access nearby… AND a hot tub. In the backyard.

Ashley and I walked in the front door, dropped our suitcases, threw on suits, and eased into the hot deliciousness, completely aware of our childhood deprivation of backyard water receptacles and the novelty of the moment.

We plan to sit in there every night we’re here.

We might even play dolphins. I wouldn’t be surprised.



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