Summers at the pool and a ‘handful of dust’

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 27, 2001

Sports Editor

There was a time when the word "summer" meant something to me.

I imagine for most children today, the season of no school, no teachers and hours spent splashing around like an idiot in a pool is looked upon with a relish only usually reserved for Christmas.

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And believe me, I use the term "idiot" with the sincerest amount of respective recollection,

Because, let’s face it, that’s what we all are when we’re children. Idiots. No cares, no bills, your next meal payed for and served up hot by your parents. You need warm clothes for the winter. Your parents provide. A bed to sleep in. Again, parents and not only do they give you a bed but a room too. And they suit the room to your tastes and fill it up with toys and cover your bed in flashy sheets covered with super heroes.

And summer meant vacation.

Work? That was something parents did. School? It was over for at least three months. No more reading, writing or arithmetic until then.

The trip to the city pool was an everyday occurrence and it only cost a $1 to get in. It opened at 11 a.m. and it closed at 5 p.m. and for those six hours you spent most of the time in the water, because you had water at home, but that was called a "bath" and taking a bath was nowhere near as fun as swimming. You didn’t have to use soap, you didn’t have scrub behind your ears and you weren’t naked.

As a young boy, one of my worst fears was taking a dive of the diving board at the city pool and coming up, shall we say…indecent.

But that was a frivolous fear and one still, today, that would be quiet an embarrassment.

Remember when jumping off the high dive was the thing that set your heart to pounding and made your skin turn cold, even though the water around you was super-heated by the sun?

And why? Everyone was doing it. Boys and girls smaller then me were doing it.

I eventually worked up my courage one summer and did it. But I didn’t dive. I just looked out over the pool and stepped off.

I can’t remember my mother’s exact reaction when I told her I jumped off the high dive, but I can imagine her look to be one of shock and deep foreboding.

My mother has a deep fear from childhood of water. She won’t take a shower because she can’t stand water to be over her head and she washes her hair in the sink.

But my being afraid to jump off a high-dive was, yet, another frivolous fear.

As a child you don’t know the meaning of the word fear.

Fear is driving at night with low visibility on a rain soaked country road. Fear is a phone call telling you someone you loved has just been in an accident. Fear is a doctor diagnosing you with terminal cancer. Fear is the unknown.

The poet T.S Eilot wrote: "I will show you fear in a handful of dust."

Remember the asbestos scare not to long ago? In today’s world even dust can be a killer.

Oh, to live the life of the idiot once again.