Friday, October 24, 2008

"Alberca Hoy? Swimming Pool Today?"

Refreshed after a mid-day swim, Skip and I were enjoying lunch on our pool deck. Abram, our six-year-old neighbor, was peering at us through the Cyclone fence between his backyard and ours. His little face squeezed between the links, he asked in Spanish, “Please, can I go swimming?” Who could resist? “Yes, Abram,” we told him, “you can swim, but only if you bring your mom with you.” Five minutes later he was back with his mom Teresa and four buddies.

Word got around fast that Abram and his friends had been swimming, and kids began stopping us in the street. “Alberca hoy? Swimming pool today?” they’d ask. Skip and I conferred. “It’s hot. We’ve got this nice pool. We miss being around kids. Why not? As long as they bring an adult to watch them.” So we said “yes.” Kids began to show up at all times of the day, but no adults were with them. Now what? Someone had to supervise, so we designated one hour, two afternoons a week, as kid time in the pool. Skip and I would supervise.

On swim days we hang a sign in Spanish on the front gate, “Children: Swimming Today, 4:30.” Kids with plastic water toys, towels, and goggles begin to gather outside the gate in mid-afternoon. At 4:30 on the dot, we open the gate, and Skip and I take our places in plastic chairs on the pool deck.

An explosion of energy ensues. Splashing, cannonballing, racing, teasing, diving, shouting – kids doing what they do everywhere in pools. As we watch them, personalities begin to emerge. Juan practices his cannonball for a solid hour. Kelly and Carla tend to the younger kids. Alonzo picks fights. Pablo is a natural leader. Erika always complains when someone takes her water toys.

Lifeguard duty appeals to Skip. He wears a whistle on a lanyard, and he doesn’t hesitate to enforce the rules: no running, no food or gum, no fighting, no peeing in the pool. At 5:25, he blasts the whistle and shouts, “Cinco minutos más!” (“Five minutes more!”). At 5:30 the kids collect flip-flops, towels, and toys and file out, saying “Gracias” as they go.

A lot of the Americans in San Pancho live on the outskirts of town, where it’s quieter and more private, but we like being in the middle of the action. Chances to be involved with Mexicans, like the pool kids, pop up, and that helps us feel we’re part of the community. We’re not just on a long vacation here. San Pancho is our second hometown.

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