Every teacher knows that moment of meeting a student’s parents and thinking “ok…that explains it”. I am sure that my teachers had plenty such moments meeting my parents, and I hope for the sake of all that some of the mutual characteristics they noted were positive, and not just the ones that were criticized on my report cards.
One of the qualities I learned from my parents is the value – perhaps even love! – of hard work. I loathe the expression “work smart, not hard” because working smart inevitably means taking shortcuts and the easy way, while I rejoice in plodding – the hard way – through whatever I am taking on.
This love of labor is never more evident than on our favorite family holiday: Pool-opening day. Although my parents are smart enough to have professionals cover the pool in the fall, they have always seen fit to engage their children’s services when it comes time to open the pool up. For most of the time I lived at home, this day was viewed with a paradoxical attitude best described as “giggly dread”.
This was never an easy job, even when all four of us were working on it. So we’d all get cranky and raise our voices and this was the one day a year that was allowed.
Here’s how the day would go: rise early. Prepare to get wet and annoyed. Spend a few hours in the blazing sun yanking the pool cover off. Wonder why we never quite manage to get all of the water and leaves off of the cover before we try to open it. Yell. Get yelled at. Laugh about it.
When the cover is off we lay it out on the lawn and scrub it down with big brushes. We do the same to the water sleeves that hold the cover on. Then we eat lunch (or in more recent years, enjoy “beer-thirty”), and marvel that we didn’t yell at each other more than we did.
The best part of the day was always the evening, when we would be so exhausted from the sun and physical exertion (and yelling) that we would crash early, enjoying that particular sleep that only comes with hard work outside.
It has been a few years since I have worked on the pool. Since my brother has the excuse of being in the mid-west right now, he is off the hook for this year. But tomorrow I bring my sweetheart with me to help. If our relationship can survive pool-opening day, we’ll be in good shape.