Sometimes it only takes a small ray of sunshine to completely change your outlook on the day. Or on the entire summer.
For me, that ray of sunshine was an email that arrived several days after I wrote about the daunting prospect of facing a COVID-19 summer with the kids. I checked my inbox after a long day, and there was a short message from an acquaintance, inviting my family to make use of her swimming pool.
No, really. That gesture of kindness, and the thoughtfulness behind it, completely undid me. It came from a person that I respect and enjoy tremendously, but whom I do not know especially well. Not a bosom buddy, from whom such offers might be hoped for – or even expected.
Rather, this came out of the blue, in the way that all the very best surprises do.
The timing really couldn’t have been better, as the kids and I had just returned from a rather disappointing aquatic foray. We’d gone for an amble (I hesitate to use the word “hike” for the number of steps we took) at a small lake in Casey County and found ourselves at a boat launch.
My kids instantly decided the concrete ramp into the murky water was a “beach” and waded in enthusiastically, cheerfully towing a large inflatable donut that I had purchased for my youngest daughter’s birthday party. The party had been cancelled back in March at the start of the outbreak. She had been desperately hoping for an opportunity to use the floating donut ever since, but the outlook was bleak, given the governor’s prohibition against public pools this summer.
Thus, when asked if they could paddle around the boat ramp (which was not in use), I said yes. You’d have thought they were on the beaches of Waikiki to see their smiles. The fun lasted about ten minutes – until a police officer rolled up and politely informed us that swimming was prohibited in the lake.
We trundled home dejectedly, stopping by Baskin Robbins to drown our sorrows in mint chocolate chip ice cream. Then came the email and suddenly, things were looking up.
The upward trajectory of the summer increased exponentially when we actually arrived at said friend’s house and got a look at her pool. It took my breath away.
I didn’t grow up with backyard swimming pools. They were somewhat rare in Illinois, where the season for outdoor swimming is short and fierce. One friend had a small aboveground pool; we would spend hours walking in circles around the perimeter, trying to create a current strong enough to carry us along.
But that was a rare treat and, honestly, the pool itself wasn’t that impressive. An in-ground pool, on the other hand, was always the height of luxury. I find myself instantly channeling my inner movie star, with visions of poolside cocktails, wide-brimmed hats, and big sunglasses. This was definitely a movie star pool.
In the interest of social distancing, we had been given solo run of the pool and we spent five glorious hours splashing and jumping and sunning on deck chairs. The kids played pirates and shipwrecks on floating rafts, choreographed synchronized swim routines, and dove for plastic rings. I ploughed through half of a new novel on my Kindle. Everyone at cherries in the shade.
It was a beautiful afternoon.
We all got sunburns, despite hourly reapplication of sunscreen, because the midday summer sun in Kentucky is shockingly aggressive. But it was entirely worth it. The kids pronounced it the Best Day Ever and I’d be hard-pressed to disagree.
When the world is upside down, random acts of kindness become even more powerful. When that kindness comes with a swimming pool, it becomes downright transformative.