I lived the first eight summers of my life in Eagle Rock, CA, a suburb of LA that is situated right between Pasadena and Glendale. We would often come to Philly for long chunks of time during the summers to visit the grandparents, but we’d still have stretches of summer weeks in hot, smoggy LA.
We lived in a little, old house with a big backyard on the flat part of a hill. The yard started out with a brick patio just out the kitchen door, and rose up in four terraced levels, finally ending at a two story garage and driveway. A wide, flagstone stairway divided the yard up the middle.
One of the traditions each summer was to drag the wading pool out of the garage and inspect it for tears or punctures. If it could be patched, it would be, but some years it was too far gone and we’d go out to get a new one. I remember one year in particular, going to buy the pool with my mom. I don’t know what store we went to, the only thing that stands out in my mind were the stacks of wading pools that seemed mountainous and very far over my head. We got one with a little built in slide, and I thought my heart was going to implode with the excitement of it.
The wading pool is inextricably linked to my summer childhood memories, but two events stand out. The first was when my cousin Harlan, then 16 and visiting from Hawaii, decided that he was going to get into the wading pool with us. The water splashed over the sides and the plastic walls moaned, but the thing held. His face wore an expressing of satisfaction as he spread his arms out across the back, half encircling it, and said, “not bad.” I couldn’t believe someone as big as him, a grown up in my seven-year-old eyes, was in the wading pool. My sister took to his presence instantly, and shook her blond ringlets in his face, to better douse him with water.
The second memory is of one of those moments when my parents did something deeply inpractical, simply because it was fun. It was a cooler day, and water in the pool was not warming up. We still wanted to get in, but couldn’t sit there without our teeth chattering just a little. The hot water heater for the house was just on the other side of the backyard fence, along the side of the house. I don’t know whose idea it was, or which parent executed it, but they hooked the hose up to the heater and ran the the hot water straight into the wading pool. As the pool filled, I danced around the yard, so excited that it was going to be like bathwater, only outside. They only did it once, but it made a deep impression.