The Shade Tree

The Shade Tree

This past summer there were four of us engaged in a very complex and synchronized strategic mission. We honed our skills and operated with the precision and determination of soldiers heading into combat.

Murmurs started the night before. Schedules were exchanged, coordinates were mapped, and secret plans were made under the cover of night. In the wee hours of the next morning, texts served as our Morse code… thumbs flew through the keyboards. We had one mission and one mission only – to get the shade tree at the community pool.

Families are either a community pool family or they aren’t. We are, and I love our pool, but sadly, our pool season has come to an end for the year.

Our pool is not big, nor is it glamorous. We do not have a tab that we can sign for our lunches, and we do not have towels provided. What we do have are 25-cent Cow Tails (best candy ever), a wonky tetherball pole, gallons and gallons of highly chlorinated water that I do not have to clean or manage, and we have the shade tree.

The tree, or OUR tree, as we have claimed it, is rather tiny but it provides enough afternoon shade and a good view of the pool for four moms who just want to sit. Because, let’s face it, sometimes summer is not THAT relaxing. Our kids want to be transported (what?), and fed (boo), cared for (oh, come on!). But if we can snag the tree, we can hunker down all afternoon and relax.

This summer, I sat under the tree and reminisced.

I studied the moms who actually play with their kids in the pool. I was one of those moms once; I am not one of those moms now. I was in the pool or sat at the edge of the pool for years. I blew bubbles, I frolicked under the mushroom waterfall, and I flashed more than my fair share of people when my kids jumped in and pulled my bathing suit top down. I played Marco Polo with gritted teeth, applied sunscreen by the gallons, and struggled to get my kids in floaties. That ship has sailed. Now, we pull into the parking lot, and they ask me, “Are you getting in today?” “Nope.” And all is well.

Schedules were exchanged, coordinates were mapped, and secret plans were made under the cover of night.

I sat under the tree and watched people.

I watched the moms who know they look good in a bathing suit, and I watched the moms who don’t quite feel as confident in theirs. I watched the dads who have a coveted day off and are spending it with their kid at the pool, not wanting to miss a dive, a splash, or a lap. And, I watched the moms who are there day in and day out doing their best to stay sane. I watched the moms who are stuck in the fenced-in baby pool area looking out at us like the puppies in the sad ASPCA dog commercials, and I see the moms who come in and try to wrangle their tweens and get them out of the pool without crossing that uncool parental line and “embarrassing” their little cherub.

I sat under the tree in utter confusion.

My son and his friends have a game they call Bottle Cap, where they literally throw a bottle cap into the pool, and he who snags it wins. Sure, there are rules and regulations for Bottle Cap, but this game goes on forever. One tiny water bottle cap can keep 7, 13-year-olds captivated for hours. Now remove the setting. I CANNOT imagine handing my son a single white bottle cap at home and saying, “Ok, here you go. Entertain yourself until dinner.” Mutiny in Coopersburg. That’s what makes the pool so great. One bottle cap + one pool = hours of fun.

I sat under the tree and played tape recorder.

“Mommy, can I have…”

“It’s in the pool bag.”

“Mom, where is the…”

“It’s in the pool bag.”

“I can’t find…”

“It’s it the pool bag.”

I don’t do a lot of things right, but I do pack a good pool bag.

I sat under the tree to heal.

My mom died this summer, and a few weeks later, so did my grandmother. I sat under the tree in shock, and I sat under the tree knowing my life has now tilted. I sat there, and I hashed out the details of planning, not one, but two memorial services; I realized I now had a new role in the extended family; and I worried about my dad, my brother, and my kids. But sitting at the pool with my three friends, under “our” tree, I started to heal. Sometimes it is easier to talk to people when you are both looking at the same thing instead of each other. Sometimes it is easier to just not talk at all. Sometimes you just need to sit with your friends under your tree.

I sat under the tree and was grateful.

I was grateful I had friends who cared and showed their love and support. I was grateful I have the memories of being a daughter and granddaughter to these two loving women. I was grateful I was in a position where I COULD sit under the tree for an afternoon, and I was grateful my kids were having a ball at the community pool, because sometimes the community pool just makes everything ok. That and Cow Tails.

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