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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Putting away the pool

A very exciting thing happened to us this summer. 
Just as the TV weatherperson gave her prediction that we were heading into a heat wave, my mom called to discuss Vincent’s birthday. As we chatted about the impending heat wave and I explained why our older house’s electric panel could not handle an air conditioner, my mom had a brainwave: “You should buy a pool,” she said. “They are on sale right now. It would be perfect for Vincent’s birthday!”

I did not need any sort of arm-twisting or other form of coercion—especially as she wanted to join in the purchase of this gift. As kids, we had grown up with a succession of pools, each one taller and broader, but all the same wonderful round cool summer playground. We all took ‘pool chore’ turns: hosing out the filter and skimming leaves with a homemade net made out of a wire hanger and my mother’s old nylon stockings. Only the oldest kid was allowed to put the chlorine tablets into the floating dispenser. The youngest kid was left with the job of miserably turning the filter panels while they were being squirted out. We all loved skimming leaves—we got to go out in our little blue boat and chase down rogue leaves with the nylon stocking skimmer.

All those memories fueled me. Throughout that morning, the idea of a pool for Vincent’s birthday grew and grew until by afternoon it became unbearably sweet. We headed to Zellers, sales flyer in hand. “All gone,” we were told by the one salesperson we tracked down. We turned the nose of our car toward Wal-Mart. In Sporting Goods, we found a small crowd of hopeful families clustered around one salesperson who was on the phone. “Pool?” we asked the crowd. “She’s calling the warehouse now,” answered a mom in a tense whisper. Two other moms glanced over and nodded briefly in nervous anticipation. The salesperson hung up the phone. “They’re looking,” she said in the waiting silence. “Someone thinks that there were a few pools that didn’t get sent out. They will call me back in twenty minutes or so.” We watched as the crowd of moms scattered slightly, still hovering around the swimming pool aisle, glancing at each other as if to measure the competition. Visions of beach balls, floating lounges, and blow-up swans flickered in their eyes.

A rumor began to spread among the moms. “Canadian Tire,” we heard. “Canadian Tire had pools yesterday … lots of pools …” The phone rang and we all watched as the salesperson answered. Just as her face began to register the faintest disappointment, we were out the door and headed toward Canadian Tire. “Go,” Vincent said with urgency, as he slowed in front of the doors of Canadian Tire, “Go!” I jumped out of the car and didn’t lose time looking behind me. Through the doors I plunged and was greeted by the sweetest sight. Boxes of pools smack in the middle of the main aisle. Sweeter still was the orange ‘on sale’ sign above the pools. I attached myself to one of the boxes and waited for Vincent to park the car and catch up to me.

“It’s awfully big,” he said doubtfully, when I had moved enough for him to read the pool dimensions on the box. “It’s all they have left,” I responded. It was enough. He flagged down a salesperson who brought a dolly. The box just fit into our hatchback with the seats down. We had to use our John Deer lawn mower and cart to get the box from the car into the backyard.

I had that pool set up in two hours. Two days after filling it, the township declared an official heatwave and imposed outside water restrictions. Isn’t God’s timing wonderful?  :-) Of course it is trivial seeing our filled pool as a ‘God thing’, but you have NO IDEA how hot our old timer flat roof house gets! It is truly how we felt!

We enjoyed the pool all summer long and I thanked God (and my mom) for it at every opportunity. The girls (our Dalmatians) loved it too. Although we weren’t about to let them shred the liner with their enthusiastic thrashing, so outlawed them from being inside the pool, they loved running around the cool perimeter of it. I think it acted as sort of an outside air conditioner for them. Gabe, our Siamese cat, lay down alongside it as well, moving with the shade as the sun climbed each day.

But now it is Fall, and we emptied the pool yesterday. Today is ‘pack the pool away’ day. Very much a bittersweet kind of thing. It signals the end of summer fun, but we will get a good-sized portion of our backyard back. Although I suspect it will look as though aliens visited us (ie., the round crop circle where the pool killed the grass). We can dream about the excitement of a new summer, and the fun of setting up the pool again.

In my ongoing determination to learn to live in the present, I am seeking to see even the chores of the day as a discipline, an exercise in understanding contentment and gratitude in the present moment

As I do this, I recall earlier concerns: if I become focused on the present, won’t I lose the learning power of remembering the past, or the visioning of the future? Instead, I note, as I dry the liner and place each plastic clip in the zip lock bag, that through gratitude, I revisit moments in the past and am thankful for them, and am accepting of, and able to, appreciate the Fall moment of putting away. I notice a holistic connecting with the season, the objects in my hand, and the sense of the gift of this moment, past moments and future glimpses of potential moments of joy. An overarching contentment in spite of cold fingers in the Fall breeze and stiffness in my aging ‘nurses’ back.

G. K. Chesterton said, “You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”

I think what I am learning in this discipline of living in the present moment, is to say grace before and as I teach classes, write, listen to my research participants, chop pears—and put away the pool. 

Enjoy your Fall moments!

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