Thursday, June 21, 2007

Got Chlorine?

Got Chlorine? That's the slogan on my kids' swim team shirts for the summer. Like milk, food, water and other life-sustaining substances, in the summer, being in the pool is a necessity for outdoor lovers. That's the message I get from those two words together.

There's a Catch-22 about being in the sun. On the one hand, it causes wrinkles and skin cancer. On the other, it provides much-needed vitamin D and happy endorphins that flow through our bodies, helping us to feel good, vibrant and alive. That's why people love summer. They feel better about themselves because of those good-feeling endorphins lining their cells or bloodstream or whatever else they line. Maybe they're not even called endorphins, but it's something like that.

I must admit, I feel great in the summer. I love to lay by the pool and soak in the rays. I love the dry, raw smell of pool water on hot cement. I love to feel bronze and pulsing, which is the affect the sun has on me. I do not love the wrinkles from years of sun exposure. But I don't know whether I can give up those positive feelings found only when the sun's out to keep my skin from "premature aging." We won't talk about skin cancer, something that runs in my husband's family.

There's no doubt I manage the sun way better than when I was a teenager. I used to lay out in the back yard slathered with baby oil to fry myself like a lobster. Even harder to believe is my friend Gina from Preston, Idaho, who told me recently that she used Crisco, not baby oil! AUGH!

Of course we had a squirt bottle mixed with lemon juice and water so we could spritz our hair to make it blonder. The summer before ninth grade I got a hold of a bottle of Sun-In which was disastrous beyond disastrous. I ruined the family picture that year because of my brassy, fake yellow hair with black roots.

I don't do that anymore. I pay a lot to look professionally sun-kissed. And I wouldn't think of putting baby oil on. I do use sunscreen. But I still love to lay by the pool. Part of has to do with my maternal grandparents who had a pool in their back yard while I was growing up. My Grandma Doris and Grandpa Ray were so nice to let me and my friends and my siblings and their friends come swimming whenever we wanted.

After we'd tell Doris we were coming, she'd get in her champagne-colored Cadillac and go buy all manner of junk food for us at K-Mart. She'd arrive back home the same time as us with powdered donuts, chips, and cookies. Oh yes, and Tab. Remember Tab? In the pink can?

Afrer swimming for a bit, we'd get hungry and wander into the house to root around for junk food. Grandma Doris would be reading the National Enquirer and smoking a cigarette. She'd look up from her magazine and say, "Can I get you a Tab honey?"

I'd say sure and we'd sit at the formica table with the terry cloth tablecloth and talk with our Tabs. By the way, I tried Tab recently when I bought it when I was feeling nostalgic for Grandma Doris. It is absolutely vile. How did I consume numerous cans all those afternoons?

"Do you still like that boy?" she'd ask. "Honey, are you having a good summer?" a little later. "Tell me about your vacation." She'd listen while I'd tell her all that was going on, cocking her head slightly with interest.

Every Fourth of July my Grandpa Ray would light sparklers and run around the pool singing crazy songs while we oohed and aahed over the fireworks. That was summer.

Chlorine was just part of it.


SummerChild said...

I am completely addicted to the sun. I think that there must be something in the Nordic blood that makes our skin crave the sunshine on it (perhaps ancient memories of entirely-too-long, dark winters?). I find myself coming to work earlier so I can leave earlier, so I can go for a hike or a swim while the sun is shining.

And your writing is beautiful.

Ellen Hawkins said...

Thanks Suvi. You make my day.