In the years and days gone by, for coming up on twenty-five years, this is a place where much Wilson family life has transpired. Especially summer time life.
It is the specific place where each of our five children learned to be competent and reasonably strong swimmers. This goal was especially important to a mom who grew up in Florida where swimming pools and oceans abound. When our sons were coming along and participating in summer swim team year after year after year, many values and lessons were learned.
Through the years, both hurricane damage and financial struggles have threatened to shut this neighborhood gathering space down. But dedicated, hardworking and creative people always found a way to open the doors on Memorial day weekend and provide a much desired respite from the months of North Carolina heat.
Right beside this tree surrounded summer oasis, there are two tennis courts. Most of the summer days of our boys’ childhoods were spent on the courts or in the pool and most often in both places. Because of the effects of a nearby creek, the courts were always cracked and almost always had grass and weeds growing up through the many crevices in its surface, yet children still learned to serve and volley on this imperfect terrain. Sadly, the unfriendly elements won the battle for this space. There are dreams and plans to reinvent this fenced in territory in days ahead, but for now there is silence where the back and forth of tennis ball connecting to racquet as well as the sounds of mostly friendly competition used to float through the air.
Our boys were more of the “coach’s award” type kids than MVP winners. I am happy that they were teachable and cooperative as they learned skills and played away their summer days.
For such a small, modest neighborhood swim club, there have been a high number of swimmers sprinkled throughout the neighborhood that earned college scholarships. There was even one guy who was part of a gold medal winning relay team in the 2012 Olympics. Charlie is kind of a neighborhood legend, and some of our sons’ best swim team memories happened when they were called upon to swim relay races with this lightning fast neighbor. As anchor, he could always bring it home.
This is also the place where our youngest daredevil daughter began jumping off of the high dive at a very young age. The lifeguard on duty encouraged and cajoled her and off she went. The bribe was a “jolly pop” - a frozen, sweet, forever 25 cent treat that comes in red and yellow and green and blue and orange and my personal favorite, white.
Despite the myriad country clubs and fancy pools in our city, the girls’ friends are always so very excited that we are heading to this particular pool. As one of only a handful of pools within our city where a high dive remains (I understand that if it ever breaks, it can never be replaced due to insurance restrictions), many hard working and handy people have figured out ways to keep this rite of childhood springboard open. It truly is a special place.
When we moved away from this neighborhood a few years back, I knew that when the soaring heat of summer came calling, I would miss the convenience of a two- block walk to this magical place. That has played out. We now drive the 15-20 minutes to get there, but the visits are infrequent enough to have become impractical. Life changes.
The other day, I drove up to this spot where I have spent hundreds of summer days. As I recalled many lovely memories, at the same time, I felt a bluesy sadness in my gut. It became clear that it is time to say a kind of goodbye to this peaceful oasis in the woods. This will be the last summer that we are formal members of this “anyone is welcome club” (well, anyone who can pay the dues).
As with so many other recent milestones and passages, it is not just about a longing or sadness around hanging out in this particular space. As I look around at the new and young families splashing around and enjoying the hot summer days, there are fewer and fewer that I recognize. “Six and under swimmers” turn into kid catchers who then post up on the lifeguard stand. It seems to happen overnight as the circle of life is played out right before our eyes. My own children are growing up and three of them are in fact grown. Life rolls on.
I, myself, feel a bit like those crackled tennis courts. A small and specific territory that is ripe to be re-made and re-purposed for days ahead. There are feelings of nostalgia about what has taken place in the past coupled with hopes and dreams about what is to come. There are endless prospects and an excitement around the choices before me. With gratitude for the past and the path I have taken, I also look forward to the shifts and transformations ahead. The possibilities beckon.