Wednesday, May 19, 2010

We Gonna Rock Down to Our Above Ground Pool

When we were little my grandmother had a hobby of refinishing old trunks and selling them. She made one for each of us and in them we keep old keepsakes. When I started The Great Scan Project, my sister was inspired and went in her trunk and started scanning her share of the old photos and lo and behold she came up with a photo of the above ground pool. And here it is. That there is my sister on the raft with one of her two oddly named puppies. It was either Buckles and Needles or Hearts and Sausages. I wrote about our family's affinity for bizarre pet names here. The red dog on her other side was my threadbare Pomeranian Toots Louis. The man standing in the pool is my grandfather, Poppop June, the one I'm named after and no, my name is not June.  But the real star of the photo is the above ground pool, which represents the very best part of a white trash childhood. I'm pretty sure Jeff Foxworthy has included above ground pools in his criteria for being considered a redneck. The above ground pool is right up there with a big, fallen in, rusty trampoline in the front yard and if you are super-redneck you have both the above ground pool AND the trampoline and chances are one of your male cousins would have attempted to jump from the trampoline and into the pool in "Jackass" fashion and would have needed a trip to the emergency room, which would then result in prescription painkillers, a subsequent addiction to them, life on disability benefits from the accident and injury and somehow that would lead to him also starting a meth lab in a trailer. That's how it goes in the country.

This was our second above ground pool and this one was located in the backyard of my grandfather's duplex on Green Drive. Our first above ground pool had been the previous summer when we lived on Spruance Street. I remember that summer as one of the best summers of my entire life and I don't know what year it was, but I remember that summer by the food we ate and the music we listened to. It was the summer of the Thompson Twins' "Hold Me Now" and Eddy Grant's "Electric Avenue" (best 80s song ever probably). We loved the Eurythmics and Human League that summer too along with Talking Heads. The good music never stopped playing. My favorite song was Madness's "Our House."

I've written about the Spruance Street summer in this post. I'm thinking it was 1982 or 83. I'd have to look up when those songs came out to know for sure.

Everything was just so good. Life hadn't gone to hell for me yet. My father hadn't married Louise. They'd just met I think. It's weird how I can't remember the years of anything, but I can remember when things happened by music and movies that came out. My father and Louise got married when "Back to the Future" came out. I know this because my grandmother took me to see it when they left for their honeymoon the day after their wedding.

But that summer, the Spruance Street summer, when all that good music came out and my mom went to Ames and bought that above ground pool - nothing compares to that summer. My grandfather's second wife Flipper, who was barely 20, hadn't left him yet, though she would soon. I remember her being there because of her cooking. She baked all the time and after the above ground pool, my mom went back to Ames and bought a hand crank ice cream maker and a box of rock salt and we made peach ice cream almost every day, while Flipper made Jello Poke Cakes. Some people cheaped out and only used one color of Jello in their Poke Cake, but Flipper used so many the cake looked like a rainbow under a cloud of Cool-Whip. Even after everything that happened after this summer, the one good thing I remembered about Flipper was that she used all those flavors of Jello in her cake.

We were one of only two white families on Spruance Street. We lived in an all black area, which was no problem for any of us, though I know the entire six weeks I spent there with my mother that summer, the Hollands were gnashing their teeth and wringing their hands over the idea of me playing with "coloreds."

The kids on that street never had anything. None of them ever had a pool and my mom knew that and she didn't care what color a little kid was or where he or she came from. She knew what a pool meant to a child in the middle of summer's stagnant heat when no one had any AC and no one knew anyone with a pool or had a car to take them to a public pool. I know my mom got that above ground pool, and it was small because that was all she could afford, for the whole neighborhood, not just us and she never said no when a child wanted to get in it. Most of the time it was so crowded that there was no room to swim and kids just stood there in the soupy water, just happy to be wet. She'd stand outside of the pool and spray us with the hose so we could wet our heads and because the hose water was a little more refreshing than the pool water and we would scream and squeal.

My mom did this because she remembered what it was like to grow up and not have anything. The kids across the street from her when she was growing up were brats and they had a pool, which they knew everyone else was jealous of and being mean, horrible kids they'd make the neighborhood children go through pure torture before they'd let anyone swim in their pool. Most of the kids wouldn't do it, but my mom wanted to get in their pool so badly that she would actually let them put sticks up her butt. Can you imagine? Children are so rotten and sadistic. The best part is that my mom said she didn't consider it that big of a trade off to get to swim. To me, that is just desperation. I'd rather be hot than have a stick in my...well, whatever.

But that's why we let anyone and everyone swim in our little pool. And that's why it was so much fun.


Anonymous said...

Ah, the summer I got to be a dj at a teen night club (what were my parents thinking letting me do that?!!) - summer of 83, but Electric Avenue was 82, but still VERY popular.

Amysue in Texas

(that was my favorite summer too)

Robin said...

I totally grew up with a pool like that. It was awesome.

sadi said...

I was a newlywed the summer of '83. We're celebrating 27 years next week.

Thanks for the memories.

kerry said...

Your mom sounds awesome. I love that she let all the kids into the pool.

Anonymous said...

Your mother is a wonderful person.

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