This house has been in my family as long as I have. Really.
My grandparents — my father’s parents — bought it a few or several months before I was born. (Not having been born yet, I am a little sketchy on the actual time table. They purchased it during the year of my birth but prior to my actual birth in August.) It was close enough to the duplex my parents rented for us to visit every weekend, more often in the summer — the season of farther off aunts and uncles and cousins and halfsiblings making their annual grandparental visits.
[Not our pool, our house, or our backyard. Neither did we have a hot tub. But if we did, I like to think that we would have been the type of people to include a “No Farting” sign — and then promptly ignore it.]
The pool was the dominant feature of the backyard then. Round, above ground, with a redwood stained deck that matched the privacy fence around the yard. My grandparents lived there for a few years, long enough for me to retain some snapshot memories of that pool. (My grandmother loved to swim, so during the summer months, the pool was in use virtually every day. It’s also where the grandchildren were happily banished when we became too rowdy or whiny for other venues.)
My brother “surprise” ducking me underwater, either not realizing or not caring that I wasn’t ready. The sting of chlorine in my eyes, the gasping and spluttering of water entering my nostrils.
Later — a different summer, I think — me “swimming” by gripping the ledge of the pool with my hands and kicking to keep buoyant as I navigated the circumference.
Rejecting grown-ups’ offers to hold me as they “taught” me to swim. Really, the way I remember it, they held me in such a way that didn’t let me move my arms and legs enough. They kept telling me, “Kick!” then complained when I kicked them. What did they expect would happen?
Eventually, we were allowed to swim “alone,” the siblings, cousins, and me. “Alone” meant sans adult supervision, though technically, my oldest couple of cousins were teenagers well into baby-sitting age. During that time, I learned to swim — for real, with no one holding me up — the diameter of the pool. It seemed huge then. In reality, looking at the place the pool occupied, the diameter couldn’t have been more than 15 or 20 feet across. Maybe spaces seem bigger when you’re small.
The summer I turned six, my parents, younger sister, and I moved into this house. My grandparents in turn were moving to a townhouse — someplace with a community pool (no upkeep on their part) and less groundskeeping.
When we came in, the pool came down. My mom wasn’t a swimmer, my dad wasn’t enough of one to want the maintenance work, and my younger sister was only two — making both of us young enough for the pool to be an accessible danger. So out it went.
Watching people — my dad, my new neighbors, maybe others — tear out the pool and the deck, I was, of course, sad. Part of it was the simple mundane disappointment of not actually getting to have a pool in our backyard even though we were moving into a house with a pool in the backyard. In my young mind, that was totally Not. Fair.
But there was something deeper, something I recognized even then, though maybe my younger self didn’t have the words to describe it. I had always known this backyard, and always know this back yard this way. And now, something was literally — as well as not literally — being ripped out of it. Things were changing. My family was changing. I was changing.