My Comfort Zone is a Nice Place
Somehow having managed to avoid a trip to a Massachusetts beach, I am sitting safely behind a wall of air conditioning, looking out at the Fusco Brothers' massive -- and massively green -- backyard in Wellesley, MA. It is 94 degrees and humid just a few feet away.
For reasons which I will go into eventually, this heat doesn't bother me nearly as much as the blast furnace dry heat that envelopes Phoenix, Arizona for 10 months of each year. Nor does it annoy me like our 11-day Bay Area heatwave of early July. Maybe it's the air conditioning, though I just returned from a 2-mile round trip walk to the store, completely drenched, and yet not all that irritated.
The day we arrived here, Sunday, we went with the Fusco Brothers in their minivan to "Members Appreciation Day" at their swim / health club, and I think every member of my immediate family knows what's coming next. Yes, the Fusco Brothers belong to a "pool." And though this one is not super-chilled to 72 degrees F, it does provide almost the exact vibe of the "pool" we belonged to during my much-publicized and much-romanticized Clarks Green, Pennsylvania, youth.
Before we moved to California, we spent our summers at "the pool," which explains why, when discussing summer options recently with other San Francisco parents, I was unable to come up with the names of any day camps I attended as a kid. For the sub-11-year-old me, "the pool" was hours of running around, barely supervised, swimming for 45 minutes every hour until the lifeguard blew the whistle for Adult Swim, playing tetherball and shuffleboard, then charging up the grassy hill at top speed, making car noises with my mouth, a quarter clutched in my hand for the Milky Way I would buy at the snack bar.
For the 41-year-old me, I have now learned, "the pool" is staying confined to a four square foot area in the water, usually with one or more children attached to my arms and/or torso. It's coming up with the money (no longer a quarter, now a dollar) for the snack bar, lying on lounge chairs and then almost falling out of them in hysteria when, after the lifeguard blows the whistle for "adult swim," 14 adults glide silently across the pool quietly, heads above water so as to not get their sunglasses wet. They look just as silly as they did when I was 10, and the 75 kids sitting on the sides of the pool, shivering, dangling their legs in the water, look just as impatient.
That a place like this still exists had never crossed my mind. A few summers ago, the Jawa and I, beset with an uncommonly hot summer, spent weeks searching for "the pool." We found some parks and rec pools, but they were indoors, completely mobbed, and cost $7 for an hour. Eventually, we drove to Marin, where we sampled the sparkling new semi-indoor pool at the Mill Valley Rec Center.
But that there are "pools" where parents sit around and talk (when we arrived, I took one look at the place and announced, "This is just like the pool we went to when I was a kid. Where do the Jewish people sit?") and kids run wild is such a long, relaxed trip from my everyday life, ending at my safe, comfortable suburban / small-town Pennsylvania roots, is it any wonder that the heat and humidity don't bother me?
Nobody sits by the pool in our world. We may do laps, though. No kids go to the snack bar, certainly not without a parent. We are vibrant, it is true, and we are smart, cultured, open-minded and all kinds of great things. Yesterday, my child held court in the minivan about the Middle East, and sounded pretty informed. He wants us to buy a hybrid and knows exactly how to act on public transportation. And when we have to paint over the grafitti that some teenaged gang-banger left on our retaining wall, well, that's an admission price we readily accept.
We drove home from "the pool" in the minivan, me looking out the windows at the trees, the split-levels and colonials and their huge, unfenced yards. I realized then why, every time we come and visit former San Francisco residents the Fusco Brothers, I am tempted to nag Sandra Bullock until she agrees to move us here: everything about it reminds me of Pennsylvania, and by extension, everything reminds me of being a kid. It's as if, when we moved in 1976, time slowed down here and rocketed forward on the West Coast.
Now Another Lefthander raised no fools that I know of, and I know that Wellesley is not Clarks Green, PA. I also know that, despite the presence of a thriving biotech community just down the street on Route 128, Sandra Bullock presently has a wonderful job at home with a great future. I also know that, although Peter O'Toole and Princess Grace have moved on -- and we will be visiting them next week at their new, doubtlessly Clarks Green-like home in Ridgewood, New Jersey -- we have a great circle of friends in San Francisco, the world's favorite city. And who knows what kind of Clarks Green parent I would be? After all, I only know how to be a kid in that setting.
But I can certainly sit here, sweating but not minding it, imagining a place where the adults still get 15 minutes every hour to swim, where kids charge up the hill to the snack bar, and nobody's retaining wall gets tagged by local gangsters, can't I?