Our above ground pool sees a good deal of action once the heat settles in for the summer. This summer has been no exception. I like hearing the sound of kids laughing and playing in the water, and what good would a pool be if you just sat and stared at the water? I swim practically every day, and it keeps me in fairly good shape for the shape I’m in.
Between middle school and until I got married just after high school my parents owned two houses, both with built-in pools in the back yard. Mother, who as I’ve mentioned before is a self-professed “hothouse flower” and never really stretched her athletic muscle, always insisted on a pool. Coming from the generation that visited the beauty parlor once a week for a wash and set and never actually experienced the sensation of sticking her head under a faucet, the only way I ever saw her actually enjoy the pool was floating on what we referred to as “the Queen’s raft” which was a large inflatable chair equipped with leg holes and a cup holder for her occasional weekend margarita.
During summer vacation kids would begin lining up out front early in the morning, towels thrown over their shoulders and noses decorated with zinc oxide. If we had been handing out free hundred-dollar bills we couldn’t have attracted a bigger turnout. The previous owners of the house had installed a huge pool for training an up and coming water polo star, so our pool had three levels of diving boards and a large slide that curled like a donut twist before shooting you in the deep end. My stepfather, fearing the worst from this band of teens, put up a huge white board with pool rules next to the ubiquitous “we don’t swim in your toilet, please don’t pee in our pool” sign already posted.
As part of the privilege of having friends over and enjoying the pool ourselves, my stepbrother and I had the responsibility of vacuuming and sweeping it when needed and cleaning the filter. My stepfather added the chemicals as he held the belief that any human under the age of twenty-one should have moron tatooed on their forehead, and that surely we would screw it up, and this probably had some merit. It was odd because he had chosen teaching as a profession and as I remember it considered snails higher on the evolutionary scale than the majority of his charges. For a man with little love of humanity in general, and an avid appreciation of Wild Turkey, I have to say in thinking of him that he created the most beautiful roses, well gardens in general, I’ve ever seen. I digress.
Being a latchkey kid during those years with both my parents working, one rule that they held fast to was that we were never to go in the pool unattended by an adult. This was in bold on the white board and came with severe consequences if broken. Now, living in southern California with summer arriving a month or two before school let out, this rule sometimes got a bit bent if not entirely folded. In order to keep us honest my mother took to keeping our bathing suits in her trunk to be removed only when she got home from work or on the weekends. Hmmmm. A quandary, but not an insurmountable one for my young mind.
One afternoon with the thermometer moving up and the cool water of the pool glistening in the yard whsipering “Susie, come here, just for a minute”, I just couldn’t stand it. Nobody in the house but me I searched for something to wear just to take a quick dip. I found my mother’s one piece suit with the built-in artillery in the bra area and decided that might work. Now I weighed about 98 pounds at the time to my mother’s fuller figure so the suit was definitely generously cut for my body. With my stilt-like legs dangling out of the large leg holes and the unneeded built-in support preceding me looking like two hollow traffic cones, I grabbed a towel and headed out. Our pool was surrounded by a large wooden fence shared on three sides by our neighbors and offered a good bit of privacy. The neighbors to the back of the yard had several large orange trees the fruit laden branches just tickling the fence but not hanging over.
I dipped my toe in the cool water and determined just to float in the shallow end. Being a kid, and already neck deep into breaking the rule, I soon found myself standing on the diving board. The suit, now saturated, seemed to have stretched alarmingly so that the crotch practically hung down to my knees. I executed a textbook jacknife off the second board, however, when I moved my arms back to propel myself to the surface the suit, now ballooning with water, slipped heavily off my small shoulders and sank to the bottom of the pool. Oh-oh. Now skinny dipping, and feeling I’d stepped on an even bigger rule than not being in the pool, I tried many times to swim to the bottom to retrieve the suit but it was hooked on the filter. No choice left, I got out of the pool dressed the way I came into this world, and finding just my naked self and a few curious bees, began fishing for the errant suit with the pool skimmer. Finally, I snagged it.
Suddenly I heard snickering coming from the direction of the orange trees and looked up to find two of the boys in my class perched on a branch eating a bag of Cheetos and watching me. Turning crimson from the top of my head to my bare feet, I grabbed the suit and ran. For the next three years every time I saw them my face would turn the same shade of red and I never broke the rules of the pool again, well not in my mother’s suit.
I try to keep something quick and easy on hand for unexpected swimming company. This sauce is amazing both as a pizza sauce and for dipping. I divide it into three freezer bags and take it out as needed. It can be defrosted in the microwave for quick use.
Pizza Dipping Sauce with Breadsticks
1 pkg. cheesy breadsticks
6 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. butter
1 1/2 cups yellow onion, diced
3/4 cups celery, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley
3 8 oz. cans tomato sauce
3 6 oz. cans tomato paste
3 tsp. dried basil
3 tsp. dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 1/2 tsp. sugar (I use Splenda)
2 bay leaves
Melt butter in large skillet. Add oil. Cook onion, celery, and garlic until vegetables are translucent.
Add tomato sauce and tomato paste. Whisk until smooth.
Add all remaining sauce ingredients and bring to a low simmer. Continue cooking on low for 1 hr. stirring fairly frequently. Remove bay leaves.
This makes excellent pizza sauce, dipping sauce, whatever. I take the breadsticks and sprinkle them with Parmesan then cook as directed. Serve them hot with heated sauce.