FEATURE — If Cactus Coolers and Skittles count as fruit, my summers at the La Cumbre swimming pool were the pinnacle of health. Oh, and friend burritos. Beans are a fruit, right? Or is that tomatoes I’m thinking of?
But really, in spite of the snack shack diet, summers at the pool were at least a good solid elevated plateau, if not the pinnacle of health.
Minus the skin-cancer exposure, although we all wore bold stripes of white zinc oxide on our noses. And, of course, the sure traces of fecal matter still present in any public pool, no matter the chlorine content or the fancy filtration system.
But no activity is completely without risk. And, this was a risk worth taking because those summers at the pool were everything.
There were hours outside playing in the sunshine; Marco Polo in the shallow end; diving for pennies in the deep; faux tea parties on the pool floor; and seeing who could make the best “George Washington” hair roll with our sopping manes.
They were sorting Skittles into a color coated rainbow on the hot deck of the pool totally unaware of anything else, including the inevitable bathing suit wedgie creeping in.
And there was horseplay with the lifeguards. Horseplay that sometimes ended with one of us kids (usually me) sequestered in the lifeguard shack, peeking out of the wood slats to gauge how long this stint in solitary would last and pondering which spunky piece of sass it was that landed you in there this time.
But most of all, summers at the La Cumbre pool were free. They were a time to be a kid doing silly kid stuff.
Which is what I wish my boys could be doing right now.
Free of the future. Free of the past.
But, instead, they’re still feeling the isolation of pandemic, the awareness of their white privilege, and the reckoning of a country they love and thought they knew.
We celebrated the Fourth of July yesterday. In advance of it, my cousin wrote about the song “God Bless America” – how it came to be and what it has meant to this nation.
She tells the story of how Irving Berlin, the hymn’s author, turned his mother’s individual plea for God to please bless America, the country that had given their refugee family shelter, into a prayer for America as a whole – and into a song that would give America hope during WWII.
And later would do the same for striking garment and subway workers, racial protestors in the 1960s, and a country devastated by the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
It was a song that salved all wounds.
In my cousin’s words, “ . . . it captures what we want America to be, that if God blesses our country, it will be a place of refuge, promise and hope.”
I can’t help reflecting back to the fruits of summer I enjoyed at the La Cumbre pool. To the freedom and hope. To the Skittles and the hijinks.
And I feel a little sad. Sad that summer isn’t so sweet for childhood as a whole today.
A childhood being hijacked by shutdowns, fear and shame.
Then, I think about Irving Berlin and his song of hope. His shared prayer for God to bless America.
And I am encouraged anew that the fruits of labor of this generation just might be enough to make the changes we need to fully realize our potential as a nation.
What sweet fruit that would be. No artificial sweetener needed.
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