childhood · Essay · memories · Summer

Summer Kids

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The summer kids are back. I saw them walking down the sidewalk with wet hair, towels tightly wrapped around their shoulders, flip flops flapping on the pavement, laughing at their small talk and stories.

My cousins and I used to walk to Idlewilde Park, which had a public pool, on long summer days. That is, if we couldn’t talk a grown-up into driving us. My biggest problem was not to hurt one or the other cousin’s feelings. I was aged in the middle of them, so if I accidentally seemed to favor one, the other would sulk all day.

We wore our two-pieces under our clothes and rolled a towel over our shoulders. No one wore a one-piece, those were for dorks. (Whatever a dork was, really, I don’t know, we were kids.) We could get into the pool for a quarter. We put our clothes in the shower room lockers.

We picked out our spot on the cement in the pool enclosure to leave our towels. Mine had to be in the middle. We tried to put them where no one would walk on them or get them wet. Once our towels were situated, we did cannonballs into the pool.

We weren’t the best swimmers. We dog paddled around and got our mouths full of pool water and choked. We took turns swimming to the bottom to pick up the tokens we threw in. (As long as no one got mad and decided to claim the tokens were hers and she wasn’t going to share.) We would see how many times we could swim across the pool or how long we could float on our backs, which was my favorite thing.

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When we got out of the pool, we were belly down on our towels to dry off in the sun. I remember the sunburns, but we didn’t care too much. We tried to keep out of the sun when we felt burnt, but it was more fun to play and not worry about it.

After we were dry enough, we went back in the locker room and put our shorts and tops over our damp suits. We had zorries or tennies. I never liked zorries. I often stubbed my toe or got a blister from them. I liked tennies, holey or not.

The park had a rose garden and I always dragged my cousins to see the roses. I loved “Candy Cane,” and “Coral” the best. One was for Christmas, and one made me think of far away Hawaii, where I wanted to go to study marine biology when I was big.

Sometimes we had a dime for a popsicle, but not always. Sometimes we waited until we got to the Seven/ Eleven on our walk home, to get a small Slurpee, but we had plenty of other distractions along the way.

We crossed the bridge over the Truckee River and then we crossed the road. The street along the river had pretty, old houses with beautiful gardens.

By the time we got home, our pockets were full of small treasures: pretty rocks, a feather, maybe a coin or those tiny, purple cranesbill flowers we thought were magical.

At home we raided the cupboards for something to tide us over until dinner, a bowl of cereal or a peanut butter and honey sandwich.

We turned on the black and white TV and watched old movies, like: “Spartacus” with Kirk Douglas, “El Cid” with Charleston Heston and Sophia Loren or “The Incredible Mr. Limpet” with Don Knots. By then we knew if we had a sunburn. We put apple cider vinegar in the refrigerator to get it cold so we could dab it on with a cotton ball before bed. We smelled like a bunch of pickles, but the cold vinegar helped with the stinging.

And then, lying in bed, I imagined floating and floating on the water, and drifted off peacefully, to sleep.

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