Monday, June 28, 2010

Pool of Ambivalence, Pool of Doom

The pool is great.  The pool is awful.  The pool provides hours of active fun in the sun.  The pool sits idle, like a brackish, mosquito-nurturing swamp.  I love our pool.  I hate our pool.

We set up the pool in mid-May, during one of Chicago's brief interludes of sunny weather. Since then we have had enough rain to support a rice paddy, which I think I might prefer to this stupid pool.  We--and by "we" I mean M. Peevie and two of her little girlfriends, plus A. Peevie--found the pool parts in the garage and took it upon themselves to put it up.  They stuck all the tab As into the slot Bs, putting the metal frame together without too much trouble.  It kept them busy for a couple of hours, so everybody was happy.

We filled it up, and the water was sparkling and clear--for about a week.  The kids played and screamed and made whirlpools and generally enjoyed the kind of simple childhood fun that you could imagine showing up on a Norman Rockwell canvas.

Then the rains returned, and my amateur chemical maintenance program failed miserably.  My amateur chemical maintenance program involves dumping a random, unmeasured amount of chlorine bleach into the water every day or every other day, and stirring it around with the handle of the broken leaf skimmer.  (The filter pump only worked for one year, so pool maintenance has been less-than-ideal for three years.) Last year this program worked just fine; but this year?  Not so much.  So the rains came, and the pool turned green.  Yuk.

We emptied it out, adding even more water to the rain-saturated ground--but the drain plug on the stupid pool isn't exactly at ground level, and about two or three inches of water stagnated in the bottom, turning greener by the day.  Finally I Tom Sawyered the neighborhood kids into helping me scoop the water out so we could clean it up and fill it again.  Two Peevies and five neighborhood kids kicked off their shoes and socks, grabbed primary-colored beach buckets, and hopped into the murky mess. 

"Are there leeches in here?" one kid asked.

"What are leeches?" said another.

"Jahaylia is throwing water on me!" somebody complained.

"This is my section! Move over!" a territorial water-flinger ordered.

They scooped and flung buckets of icky water until the vinyl bottom appeared; and then they kept going until only tiny puddles remained.  Then C. Peevie and I tipped the pool up on its side, snapping off one rusted support pole in the process.  We hosed it down, scrubbed a bit with rags to loosen the more stubborn algae stains, hosed some more, and set it back down on the bare mud-circle (like a crop circle, only without the crops, and without the mysterious origins).

In about six hours the pool sparkled and tempted, and everyone ran and got their bathing suits and goggles and started whirlpooling and bouncing on bright tubes.  Happy screams and the vocabulary of newly-invented water games wafted through my kitchen windows, and once again, I loved our pool.  In a little while, I grilled hotdogs and sliced a watermelon, and everyone took a break to scarf down a perfect summer lunch before leaping back into 1250 gallons of fun.

Two hours later, they were still at it.  I could hear their raucous hilarity through the windows--my poor neighbors--and occasionally I'd go deckside to make sure everyone had a turn with a tube and no one was bleeding.  Finally, when it was almost time to close the pool down and send the neighbors home, I went outside to give a 10-minute warning.

The pool was dark brown and murky.  It looked like someone had dumped a bucket or ten of mud into the water.

"Wha...wha...?" I stuttered, uncomprehendingly.  "What in the hayride happened to the pool?"

"M. Peevie dumped MUD into it!" the boys screamed in unison, quick to tattle.  M. Peevie just stood there, not denying it.

"We were playing in the pool, and she just dumped a bucket of mud in!" they reiterated.  "And then she did it again!  We told her to stop, but she kept doing it!"  M. Peevie's stood in stoic silence, but a tiny crease of worry appeared between her eyebrows.

Oh, she better worry, all right.  Smoke started coming out of my ears, and I felt my natural goodwill evaporate.   I sent everyone home, and took M. Peevie down to the dungeon. I closed the chains around her wrists, a la Phoenix and Crowe in Gladiator; and I began to interrogate her.

"What were you thinking, M?" I asked.  "Why would you dump mud into the clean pool?"

"I don't know what I was thinking!" she said.  "I wasn't thinking about what would happen!"  The tears started to fall, but I remained unmoved, and continued to interrogate her, but without success.

Later that evening, I tried once again to understand what would motivate an otherwise smart girl to ruin her best summer fun activity.  This time I tried gentleness instead of harsh torture techniques.  Not surprisingly, I got better results.

"M. Peevie," I said, putting my arms around her sturdy shoulders and kissing the top of her head, "M., tell me about when you put mud in the pool."

She looked up at me, still worried, but better able to think clearly.  "Well," she said slowly, "We were playing, and then most of us got out, except New Neighbor M.  NNM started swimming around and pretending he was a squid."  A light went on in my mind, and suddenly it all made sense to me.

"And the mud?" I asked, wanting her to tell the rest.

"He was being a squid," she continued, looking at the ground, "and squids squirt ink, and I thought it would be fun to give him some ink."  She looked up at me to gauge my reaction.  "I put the mud in because I wanted the squid to have some ink."  She started to sniffle again.  "But I didn't realize that the mud would make it so brown.  I'm sorry, Mommy, I'm sorry!"

I sighed and held her close.  The pool was still brown and murky, but I felt relief, and a strange sense of pride.  M. Peevie wasn't motivated by meanness, like Sid in Toy Story II; she wasn't being intentionally thoughtless or randomly inconsiderate.  Actually, she was being sort of creative, and her choice to dump mud in the pool was prompted by her big imagination.  How could I stay mad at her?

The pool stayed muddy for a few days, and the kids swam around in it anyway.  Gradually, with the getting in and the getting out and the stepping into the muddy puddles around the outside of the pool, the muditity levels became too much for me to bear, and I ordered the pool to be emptied once again.  It leans like a smelly vinyl wall up against the deck, waiting for its next tour of pool duty.

I don't know whether to fill the pool again, or to toss it into the alley for the metal scavenger trucks to pick up--and instead, plant flowers or vegetable in the circular brown scar that remains as a reminder of happier pool days.

What would you do?


boneyard said...

I'd get a new, inexpensive, filter !!

Anonymous said...

Fill it again. And again. And again.

E. Peevie said...

El--I love you. E. Peevie

Anonymous said...

I would take a moment to review Russell Peters advice. Who is Russell Peter you ask? He is a Canadian, East Indian Comedian and has some great advice on how to handle your children - you must review before posting another blog. Go to youtube and look up his sketch called - "Parents Beat Your Children" - As a child of a foreign parent with a Chinese and East Indian Mother from British Guyana I found his humor most hilarious - you "Whitey", on the other hand may not appreciate the humor! LOL
Vincent's Wife

Anonymous said...

Yes, the LOL was on purpose to drive you Batty!

The next time M. Peevie acts up - just remind her what Peter Russell's dad told him -

"Somebody's gonna get hurt!"

Vincent's wife

E. Peevie said...

Mrs. Vincent--I think you mean, "Somebody gonna get-a hurt!"