So my uncle Ronnie has a pool. When my cousin Holly, his only daughter, turned 18, he offered to buy her a car, and she said, "Actually, I'd rather have a pool." Or so the story goes. The pool is where the extended family gathers in the summer, along with various and sundry Soffee Affiliates who might as well be related. Come by sometime. Somebody will fix you a plate.
When The Boy was a baby, he was all about the pool. We have an album full of heartbreakingly adorable photos of him floating around in one of those little mesh-and-Styrofoam baby-island contraptions, wearing a bright-pink sun hat and a grin so big you can't even see his eyes.
The next summer, it was more of the same. We didn't make it to the pool as often that year, because that was the summer I started back to work, and in hindsight maybe that was our first mistake. We didn't keep the enthusiasm high while we had the chance. But dips were taken without tears, and once again a lovely summer was had by all.
It was the summer after that when, for reasons unknown, the pool became The Enemy. No, not exactly the enemy, because The Boy was totally cool with hanging around the periphery of it, shooting his cousins with water guns, eating popsicles and catching rays with the rest of the family. But he steadfastly refused to dip so much as a baby toe into the pool that year. Unfortunately for him, his intense desire to vigorously throw everything he could get his hands on into the pool (pool toys, random bottles of sunscreen, unattended sunglasses and, unfortunately, the handset to the cordless phone) meant that eventually gravity was bound to take its course. We insisted he wear a swim vest, the donning of which was its own ordeal, and waited.
Sure enough, before June was out, it happened. The splash heard round the world, or at least the Near West End. In his zeal to hurl a snorkel into the water, The Boy leaned just a little too far into the pitch and went tumbling in. With a lot of cuddling and a little ice cream, he calmed down quickly — and he had a great story to tell the grandparents at dinner.
A few weeks later, it happened again. The Boy was hot on the heels of his older cousins at the deep end of the pool when one of them cut a sharp left toward the water without seeing him and sent him soaring over the edge. I had stepped out to run an errand when it happened. I'm actually glad I missed it, as it probably would have cut years off my life.
According to everyone present, my husband yanked The Boy out of the water so fast he barely had time to get wet. Physics being what it is, though, he did get wet, and when I returned from my errand, he was waiting to give me the after-action report in all his soggy glory.
"I dove in the pool," he said, puffing his scrawny chest out.
"You dove in the pool?" I looked around at my relatives, figuring my kid might lie to me, but my cousins wouldn't.
"Actually, he fell in the pool." You can always count on the kids to fill in the details.
"Well, you kind of knocked him in the pool," said the brother of the first witness. The plot thickens.
"No, I dove in the pool," The Boy said firmly. "Because when you dive in the pool, you're brave, and when you fall in the pool, you're not. And I dove in the pool."
"You should have seen him," Holly's husband reported. "He had this panic-stricken look on his face, and his arms were flapping, and he just sailed out over the water like a beautiful butterfly."
"I'm sure you were brave, whatever you did," I said, wrapping him up in a towel and hoisting him onto my lap. That seemed to satisfy him, and he laid his damp head on my shoulder and snuggled sleepily into his towel.
"You know," he said, like he'd been thinking about it for a while, "it's kind of fun to fall in the pool."
"It's even more fun to just get in the pool, without falling," I suggested.
"Yeah," he nodded, eyeing the sparkling water, "but I think I might fall in again in a little while."