We wander a block from my in-law’s house to their neighborhood pool, the kids who didn’t choose to slip on some footwear dancing lightly across the hot street, making for the grass. The sky is a melting blue-gray and the air is a wool blanket. The kids run ahead and us parents and grandparents come slowly behind, carrying all the things. It is a summer day just west of Charlotte.
Two kids argue over who gets to use the key fob to unlock the gate, and once inside it’s a flurry of splashes and shouts. I sink into the warm water and spend the next hour being a shark or an underwater diver or the thing Leo tries to swim to. Time moves slower in the summer, in the pool, in the heat.
Later we walk back and eat supper. The youngest kids go to bed early and fall into a dead sleep within moments, exhausted, their hair still wet from the pool. We play a game, watch a movie, go to bed late and sleep in. I write all day.
And, at four o’clock, we head to the pool again.
* * * * *
It has become a much-anticipated summer tradition, our time with family in North Carolina. The long, hot days. The Cookout milkshakes. The quick trips to Books-a-Million where we make extravagant book purchases.
It reminds me of the traditions we used to have when I was a kid: the trips to Florida in the summer when our vacation neighborhood was empty and we’d race the streets on bikes, walk to the candy store, and spend hours at the beach. Or the old Christmas tradition, when grandpa and the uncles would play Monopoly and grandma and the aunts would play Scrabble and I’d fall asleep on the couch, wishing someone would let me in on one of the games.
It’s hard to imagine that someday this tradition will be a memory. It’s too sad a thought, so we go on pretending it will never end, that we’ll keep coming here forever.
* * * * *
I go downstairs, taking a break from writing. Poppy comes running over.
“Daddy, will you be my horsey?”
Of course, and I get down on my hands and knees and give her a ride back-and-forth, back-and-forth, from here to there.
She is so light on my back. Light as summer days. Light as memory.