Tuesday, August 01, 2006

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?


Anonymous Roger A. Hunt said...

Goodbye Columbus

1:30 PM  
Anonymous Noodle's Mom said...

Ironically, I just returned from "the pool", where I sat in my lounge chair next to my friends drinking diet Pepsi and gossiping about the neighborhood. And yes, doing the head above water stroke during "adult swim". Our kids, the whole group of them, happily playing Marco Polo, and other games occasionally bugging us for money for the snack machines, but mostly doing their own kid things. I may not like it here, and I may have found mouse poop in my daughters bed and a black widow spider in the bathroom last night- but occasionally even this place has its moments, and going to "the pool" is one of them.

4:00 PM  
Anonymous flush puppy said...

hats off to you, noodles' mom. finding a black widow spider would have me on the first plane outta there! sweet pool or no!

4:50 PM  
Anonymous Noodle's Mom said...

Flush puppy, I wouldn't have made it through the first day if I let a little thing like a venomous spider get to me!

7:35 PM  
Anonymous flush puppy said...

And I guess if the spideys don't get you, the snakes will!

9:03 PM  
Anonymous anotherlefty said...

It was our hair we didn't want to get wet, not our sunglasses. Oh, I forgot, that's not an issue with you.

8:32 AM  
Anonymous the hammer said...

It's not quite "your" pool (when I was a kid we visited a friend's "pool" in Terra Linda) but we can pretend in Sonoma. I wouldn't mind a quarter for being the official snack bar tender. Make sure Jawa's pockets are full of quarters in a couple of weeks.

2:21 PM  
Blogger Bud and/or Marsi said...

i,m sorry, but, nothing beats a pool in your back yard.

4:08 PM  
Blogger Bud and/or Marsi said...

i agree - but i REALLY would like a pool guy.....

we belonged to many pools when i was growing up. in pa. it was 30 minutes away in another state - so my mom would drop us off in the morning and pick us up at the end of the day. it was called fairfield/fairfield crest in newark, delaware. in ct it was in the neighborhood so we would walk or ride our bikes and spend our entire summer there. the public pool down the street from us now is - well, it kind of freaks me out, like the buffets in vegas. but pools don't even have sneeze guards....

4:35 PM  
Blogger Bud and/or Marsi said...

i was going to say that since i dont like other people, a public pool would freak me out. other people are never as clean as you'd like them to be. and they are annoying on top of it.

4:51 PM  
Anonymous flush puppy said...

i'd like a pool boy too...

6:02 PM  
Blogger Bud and/or Marsi said...

flush puppy - maybe i should rethink that one, huh?

6:32 PM  
Anonymous Noodle's Mom said...

we had a pool boy in Orange, and if I recall he was hairy, sweaty and more of a pool man, than boy.

7:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am jealous. when i first got to jerusalem in late june it was completely sweltering and our apartment did not have air-conditioning so on a trip to home center (a.k.a. home depot in the states) i was tempted to buy a blow-up baby pool to put out on the mirpeset (balcony) for chilling out in after class every afternoon. i was even prepared to be not only the bather but also the lifeguard, as well as to both blow and heed the whistle thereby enforcing my own safety breaks, all the while paying myself a shekel or two for a quickly-melting popsicle or sun-softened snickers bar.

the thought of my two male, former-yeshiva boy housemates coming home to find me "swimming" and the fight that would ensue, however, dashed my summer daydreams and meant that i left home center with only a new frying pan (to replace the dairy one i had treyfed up with chicken the night before) and a fresh wooden spoon in my shopping bag. no pool for me. so please, i hope you are not too psychically sapped by the fact that i am swimming vicariously through you. splash on, brother.

11:59 PM  
Anonymous zelda said...

oh no! that is *my* comment about the baby pool. i did not mean to be anonymous...sorry. jet lag yields profound lack of attention to details, it seems.

12:01 AM  
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