Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Passing Along Summer's Treasures

There is something magical about summer when you’re a child. Now that I’m a parent, I get to experience it all over again through my own children. There’s a lot to be said for having a second childhood. With my children clamoring for popsicles and other icy treats out of the freezer we keep in our garage, I’m reminded of all the familiar sights, smells, flavors and sensations that heralded the lazy summer months of my youth and I wonder how to pass those treasures along to them.

It’s not really wanting to relive my childhood through my children. I know their experiences and memories will be vastly different from my own. The decades of my youth are long gone, as are many of the familiar trappings. But there are some experiences that I can be sure to pass along to them – some things are timeless. To this day, I find the smell of sun warmed skin, saturated with chlorine and mixed with sunscreen to be more attractive than any man-made cologne.

Growing up in Florida, we had to have a backyard swimming pool. Everyone did. I think it was some kind of law. My brothers, sister and I made great use of it. Large and deep, our pool was situated a fair distance from the back of the house. It dominated a brick patio that my father had lined with concrete classical columns topped with torches that flickered in the sultry Florida night. During the day the turquoise water glittered with reflected sunlight, beckoning one and all to find relief from the heat in its cool depths.

We younger children made the most of it all morning, turning the calm surface into a wave pool by rocking ferociously on big black inner tubes until the brick steamed with the overflow. Afternoons the older siblings took over. My eldest brother pulled on his scuba tank and weight belt and found blessed quiet at the bottom of the pool while the rest of us splashed and played on the surface. With an army of us, quiet was a valuable commodity. The nighttime belonged to my parents. With flickering firelight from the torches and the mellow glow from the light of the pool, our back yard became an enchanted garden of brick-lined tropical walkways, complete with statuary and exotic and fragrant flowers.

When my friend Lynn called for an impromptu party at the local YMCA pool yesterday, a jumble of memories flooded me and I loaded my three children into the car. Now, a public pool is a bit different from having one in your own back yard, but the principle is still the same. After dousing the children with sunscreen, my friends and I turned them loose in the mini water park and settled back for a chat. For a few hours, the older children played with the younger ones, good naturedly retrieving pool toys that had drifted too deep, offering encouragement and swimming lessons and in general splashing about and savoring the warm sunshine.

My son Liam became the talk of the town when he, in a good faith effort to not relieve himself in the pool, pulled down his swimsuit on the deck to relieve himself a few feet from the water. Fortunately, I got him to the bathroom in time, but not before my friends resolved to tease me mercilessly about it.

When my children showed signs of fatigue, I bundled them off for home, Winnie-the-Pooh video playing in the back seat. At the end of the day, when my husband and I were bidding them goodnight, the weary trio trooped past for their kisses and as I kissed each of them, I breathed deeply of the scent of their warm skin saturated with chlorine and sunscreen, and I smiled.

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