Sunday, May 02, 2010

Jumping off the deep end to be neighborly

He was up to his knees in pond scum and discarded pool toys. He'd been there for most of the day. If the windows were open I'm sure we would have heard some choice words.

Things were not going well.

I've been calling the backyard pool area "Gray Gardens" for obvious reasons.

At one time it must have been a splendid respite. Evidence of elegant landscaping is still visible in spring as a blanket of daffodils and tulips push their way through the lawn, which any other time of year is choked in weeds and neglect. A stone patio meanders around a small in-ground swimming pool, its plates, in dire need of resetting, shift at dangerous angles. Large trees lean above it all, regal though untamed. In a perfect summer the pool would get sun but the parents would get shade as they performed their lifeguard duties.

When we moved into the house last year we didn't even bother uncovering the pool, which had been derelict for who knows how long. There were rumors the pool had been in use within the last several years, and we’d have liked to believe them. At least until we were ready to see for ourselves.

There will be time enough next summer, we decided, as we worked to get ourselves settled. Other structures in need of repair in our new home required our full attention. There were so many things needing nailing down that seemed to be coming up here and there: A leaky roof, broken doors, cracked windows, the acquisition of new appliances. … The list is never ending.

I must admit the decision not to take on the pool yard made me happy. I do not particularly like the idea of owning an outdoor pool. I don't see its value in the northeast, where perhaps a scant three months of use can be extracted from its watery depths. I’d just as soon fill it with sand and call it a lawn.

Always a Cassandra, I can only see the expense of repairs and maintenance, not to mention liability. I don't even want to think about the potential for disaster with little ones still running around. So frogs frolicked in the pool last summer instead of our family. I came to admire the nature that encroached as their chirping multiplied night by night. These noisy guests were no match for the mosquitoes, however.

Chlorine would have helped. Maybe. Fewer rainy days might have helped more.

"I really want to get that pool going," my husband mused as the extra warm days of spring came early this year. It became a kind of siren song, calling him to peel back the cover of the pool to finally see what's what underneath.

So I wasn’t terribly surprised one Saturday afternoon to find my husband dangling what appeared to be a gigantic tea bag (made out of the pool cover and containing everything that had been holding it down) over the pool from the hook of his crane truck as the kids and I return from errands.

The kids clamor to the back of the couch, jumping up and down with excitement. This is a spectacle worthy of fresh popcorn and a guy selling balloons on sticks out of a shopping cart, not to mention couch jumping.

"Poor neighbors," I think, turning my attention from the kids to the folks next door who were holding an "Open House" in hopes of selling the stately, renovated home. "No sale likely today," I say to the groceries as I put them away ... "not with the Clampetts living next door, experimenting with their C-Ment Pond, anyway."

RIP! CRASH! @FLUST #ubl@chute!

More choice words flow out with the detritus from the tea bag as it rips over the deep end.

"If they're smart they'll hold their next Open House when we're away," I continue to grouse over granola. "I should probably let them know now when to expect a vacation from us."

My husband slogs into the house with a grim look on his face. "I think something may have broken the pool."

The water is expectedly murky, though, and doesn't give away the damage caused by the accident. The ring left when the water recedes two feet overnight is the canary in that coalmine.

"Maybe we should check the basement to see if it’s flooding," I say, trying not to sound alarmed as I use the royal "we."

"No, the water’s not going there," he replies, with a tone that I interpret to mean he’ll check the cellar when I’m not looking.

"We'll it's got to go somewhere. ... Let's just hope it stays away from the neighbors'."

Write to Siobhan Connally at


Bill said...

I love the phrase, "with a tone that I interpret to mean he’ll check the cellar when I’m not looking." It's perfect.

Well, um, I mean, that is, I've certainly never used that tone. I'm just IMAGINING it's perfect.

Kcoz said...

Comparing the operating cost and danger to the benefits of a pool are like comparing apples to oranges…especially for children. We had a pool when I was a child and the pool was the center of the universe to us youngins and our friends for many years when growing up.
In the summer months (like you we could only use it for 3-4 months) my parents always knew where we were at…in the backyard swimming, all day long. Nothing bad ever happened to us when swimming and those lazy summer days from the past are filled with fond memories of my childhood. We were always in good shape physically from our pool activities and no one suffered from obesity. On the hot muggy summer days a quick dip in the pool had a cooling effect that even AC could not satisfy, and late night swims were one of the best, when the water was warmer than the late night air…At night we children sleep like logs!
The long-term benefits far outweigh any danger if one uses good sense and caution when children are young. We can all swim well and when older I have swam across ponds, lakes, and rivers…even in the ocean, without fear of drowning.
I think your family and friends will LOVE this pool for years to come…especially the children! Keep it covered, fenced in, and the gate locked when not in use and use good judgment with the little ones…they are fearless and need to be watched. I think the fond memories created, the athletic activities, and the skill of knowing how to swim and swim well far outweigh any negative aspects the pool will bring to your children. One down side is they are labor intensive to maintain and there is some expense with chemicals and electric. With five children my parents considered it a worthwhile expense for all the years the pool was there. Eventually we older kids maintained the pool and watched the little ones.

I had a friend who bought a house way below market value because the inground pool in the backyard was trashed. The walls were cracked and falling in, it was partially filled with muddy dirty water, the paint was peeling, the area around it was a mud pit…just a total mess. Me and a few of my concrete buddies tore out the caved in walls and replace them with new, poured concrete sidewalks and a patio all around the pool and added a diving board. Not only did the value of the home increase immediately, we had some really great pool party’s there as well…a great place to hang out for adults and children.

Wish I lived nearby, I’d stop by and help!