I was fifteen when the family who employed me as a babysitter asked me to go with them to Bar Harbor to "nanny" for them. The kids and I stayed with the Missus' mother: there was little nannying to be done. Mr. and Mrs. went on a sailing trip with friends for a few days and then they were back to watch their own kids. They were very nice people. I think they were just being terribly kind to me and wanted to give me a vacation. If you've never swum in the ocean off the Maine coast, you haven't experienced Refreshing. I believe there is ice in the water there. That was the first time I ever experienced undertow . . . I was twirled and spun and scraped along the bottom for a few short but uncomfortably long moments.
A summer day in my early teens: my friend's family stopped at my house to ask if I wanted to go along with them to a week's stay at a lake in Vermont. I needed to bring sheets and we had no extra sheets, so I took the dirty sheets off my bed. When my friend's mother saw those sheets . . . they were worn and torn almost from one end to the other . . . she laughed. I think that I never took them out of the car. L and I rowed a boat that was provided with the cabin and played cards at night in the yellow porch light. The lake was filled with those tall leafy weeds that twine around your legs. I tried not to make ugly sounds of fright as they stroked my legs until I swam out to deeper water where they couldn't reach me.
When I was in college, I worked as a chamber maid at a motel for one summer. One of my employee privileges was use of the motel pool after I'd cleaned all my rooms. I had the best suntan of my life that summer. First I had the worst sunburn of my life, and I continued to go out in my little red two-piece suit and cook myself through my sunburn until I was so hot I could hardly breathe. Then I'd get up, stalk to the edge of the pool and dive in without any ado. Once my flesh cooled enough for comfort, I'd climb up the stairs, go back to my lounge chair and cook some more. I was careful to remove all jewelry and spread my fingers so there would be no white areas other than those covered by my suit. If I get skin cancer, that summer is the reason.
This summer when the heat's stopped my brain from functioning well enough to accomplish anything or even to read, I've daydreamed about having a small pool here at the house. What a pleasure it would have been, last week, to spend my days and nights lolling in the water, letting it leach the heat from my blood. Then I think about having to clean the thing and make sure the chlorine's correct and having to fish out drowned rabbits and woodchucks, and a cool shower seems perfectly good.