When I was a kid, I never went to camp in the summer. I never visited relatives (they all lived near me in Massachusetts) and I never traveled outside of New England.
All I wanted to do was swim.
When I was six, my family joined a swim and tennis club in my town that was more like a community pool than a country club. C-Town Swim and Tennis Club (CS&T) had an L-shaped, 25-yard pool and a baby pool behind a clubhouse that had a lobby and two bathrooms. There were vending machines, lots of grass, and a four-square court. The tennis courts were located off the driveway.
In a game of word association, it’s the place I associate with both “summer” and “childhood.” I can’t remember what I used to do in the summer before we joined. From the time I was six, every summer was the same. I was at the club every day. I saw the same families every year and the same old friends. I started competitive swimming, the sport that consumed my life in high school, on CS&T’s swim team when I was seven years old and didn’t quit until I was too old to swim on the team anymore. And every year, the swim team was undefeated, like the basketball team in the movie Pleasantville. Actually, CS&T was like Pleasantville in a lot of ways: nothing ever changed, everyone was usually happy, and no one ever wanted to leave.
I could go on for days about all my memories of that place. The day I started swim team and was so tired that I collapsed, exhausted, into bed at home, ready to quit. My first ribbon when I was eight, for twelfth place at championships, which I was incredibly proud of. Draping towels over picnic tables and playing house with my friend Caroline in between swim team and swim lessons when we were little. (We usually pretended we were orphans who would get rescued by a rich old lady—we must have been reading the Samantha books in the American Girl series too much.) Playing games with friends over on the grass—I can still hear everybody screaming, “Witchy Witchy, are you coming out tonight?” Staying up all night in a tent at the club sleepover. Going out for ice cream with Andrea, my favorite lifeguard, whom I worshipped. Celebrating my ninth birthday at the club on a cloudy day and having the whole pool to ourselves. Spending all season trying to learn how to dive with Andrea when I was nine only to get the hang of it on the day of championships. Winning my first medal, for fourth place, at championships when I was eleven. Watching my dad win the cannonball contest at the club’s annual Family Day. Running away from Caroline as she tried to wipe her egg-smeared hands off on me after the egg we were using in the egg toss on Family Day broke all over her. Participating in skits at the club pep rally before championships. Going on a cruise of the Boston Harbor Islands with older kids on the swim team. “Catching” the little kids in the six-and-under age group, who only swam to the halfway point of the pool in meets and needed older kids there to help them when they finished. Going to Canobie Lake Park on a club-sponsored trip. Taking pictures in the deep end with an underwater camera. Celebrating my fifteenth birthday with a surprise party my friends threw for me at the club. Baby-sitting for CS&T families. Winning my first “Most Improved” trophy when I was fifteen. Taking a lifeguarding course with a bunch of friends when I was sixteen. Working at the club for four years when I was in college and becoming one of those lifeguards I had idolized.
You get the idea. As Josh, who was the teacher in that first swim lesson of mine twenty years ago (wow…twenty years ago?), says, it’s a special place. And he should know. He was a member as a child and joined the maintenance staff when he was fourteen. He became a lifeguard, then head coach, and until last year, when he was promoted to dean at the high school where he was previously a teacher, the club’s manager.
This summer, there are all sorts of things I’ve wanted to do. I made a list of everything I wanted to do this summer and have made good progress on it. I’ve also made a “Bucket List” of things I want to accomplish in my life and a list of places I want to travel. I’m amazed at how different I am now from that kid who just wanted to swim. As a child, I didn’t care about seeing the world. I didn’t want to travel when I had all I wanted right in my hometown. Why, I thought, would I want to spend my summer doing anything other than what I already knew I loved?
I’m twenty-seven now and don’t know what my future holds. I am, as my blog title indicates, a struggling single twenty-something who doesn’t yet, and may never, have the husband, kids, and house in the Boston suburbs that I so want. But if I ever do have kids, what I had with CS&T is what I want for them. Not necessarily the specifics of the way I used to spend my summers, but I hope that my hypothetical future children will be so happy with what they have that they can’t imagine that anything else could be better.
As for me, I’m working on getting myself to that place in my current life. Stay tuned.