It's four o'clock. The school debris is tucked swiftly into the drawers and shelves that hold these things. The kids hurry the way kids do when they are working toward a goal that is their own.
John rubs sunblock over his nose. Faith helps him reach the hard to reach places on his back. Lauren pulls swim trunks up around Charlie's middle. She threads his arms into floaties. Claire recently graduated from her floaty suit into a big kid swimsuit and I have graduated to one with a skirt. Time marches on.
By the time I slather on my sunblock, the small tribe has assembled itself outside the gate to the pool. They wait for the go ahead. When they see me, John produces the gate key from a secret pocket in his shorts. The group swells through the gate with shrieks of delight. The sun shines in a cloudless sky and lights the pool with its late afternoon glow. Splashes from the slide and diving board shatter the smooth surface of the water.
Charlie grabs my leg, "Get my swim noodle, Mama."
I pull the swim noodles from the storage box and toss all but the purple one into the deep end. Charlie tucks the purple noodle under his arms. The floaties bulge out over the top like huge blue muscles. The muscles are tatooed with warnings, "Complete supervision necessary at all times."
Charlie jumps in the deep end, goes under and comes up cackling and shaking water from his eyes. I slide in beside him. My head does not go under water. Ever. I hold out a blue noodle to Charlie. He grabs hold of it and we become a two-car train. When John causes a train wreck by swimming over the top of us, Charlie and I take to the airwaves. I hold the noodle to his ear and broadcast into it. "This is Mama coming at you live on Blue Tube Radio."
Charlie giggles and puts the tube to his mouth. "Hi Mama, I am swimming in the deep end with my Blue Tube Radio."
Faith tries to put a noodle up to my other ear but I am too distracted to run two radio stations. Disappointed that she cannot have my full attention, she takes a Polly Pocket and stuffs her into the hole in her swim noodle. She fills the noodle with water and blows into the other end. Polly catapults across the pool and lands on the other side with a tiny, tiny splash. The kids erupt with howls at this creativity.
Charlie swims off to play with a bucket of plastic animals in the shallow end. The big guys are thrilled because this means I am free to play Ball Tag. We take turns firing an oversized ball at the heads of our opponents. Because I refuse to seek safety under water, I am often IT. I marvel at John's strength and Lauren's speed. They are long and sleek as they glide away from me. In a matter of minutes, it seems, they will be gliding away into adulthood. I catch Claire unguarded and wing the ball at her. Yes! A direct hit!
We tire of the game and everyone climbs onto a noodle. We are knights preparing for a joust. We gallop from the corners of the pool and battle in the middle. Knees and elbows meet as we try to knock our opponents from their steeds. No one is successful until John declares his horse a camel and begins to spit water at us through the tube he is sitting on. We convulse with laughter and topple from our horses. John declares himself victorious.
The sun touches the treetops. The dinner hour is upon us. We store the swim toys and drip into the house. The heavy sensation of gravity pulls at our bodies but today it cannot reach our souls.