Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Swimming in the Desert and other Childhood Adventures

When I was a little girl I really, really, REALLY wanted to swim in a cool, clean, swimming pool with clear blue water like you see in the movies. 

Unfortunately for me, the closest swimming pool to my village was an hour away in either direction and the closest "swimming hole" I later found out were reservoirs intended for the open range cattle that wandered in the desert.  I didn't know an English word for them until I was an adult, we called them, a "wo'o" or THE wo'o, because there was really only one nearby. 

Sometimes my brothers, sister, cousins and I would walk the three or four miles through the desert for a swim in the wo'o.  We didn't have flip flops, bathing suits and bright beach towels, we didn't even own that kind of thing.  We just went in whatever rummage sale clothes we had.  The water was muddy and we'd always leave with bits of wood, leaves and mud, stuck to our skin.  It was an exhausting walk there and an exhausting walk back.  Once I lost my footing in the mud and went under, I flailed about for a few seconds, panicking and swallowing brown water before one of my brother's realized I wasn't coming back up and jumped in after me.  He was annoyed that I went under the water and STILL claims I overreacted.  Brothers, ya know?  I was always reluctant to go after that.  

Sometimes we'd get my mom to take us to the nearest town to swim at the public pool. Actually, she'd go there for groceries or something else and she'd let us tag along if we could convince our grandmother to give us spending money. For most of my childhood we didn't have a car, when we did, we didn't always have gas money to go anywhere, so if we were lucky enough to be dropped off in the "big town of Sells", which is not technically a town with its one grocery store, two gas stations, countless tribal government offices and one public swimming pool, believe me, it was a treat.

We paid .50 cents for a glorious half day of swimming.  Actually, it was more like we paid to bump into other people and get splashed in the face by the few who were actually able to get some kicking action going.  It was honestly standing room only, but we were desperate.  We swam until our eyes were so cloudy we could hardly see and our big toes raw from all the non-swimming we did.  We didn't get to go often, but it was one of my favorite things to do.

 Once my brother, cousins and I decided to dig a hole in our yard and make our own swimming pool.  We said we were going to make it deep enough for us to be completely immersed in water, but we got tired after the first foot and a half and decided it was deep enough for at least one of us to lay in it and maybe float.  We borrowed my Uncle Vinny's blue tarp, expecting it to keep out all the mud and dirt and of course, it was a pretty blue.  Perfect.

We filled the hole with a hose and despite all our best efforts, the water turned muddy brown anyway.

We enjoyed it for a full half an hour.

After hours and hours of hunting for shovels, digging and shaping a hole, quietly sneaking the tarp, adjusting it to perfection, then filling the hole with precious water, we were busted after half an hour of taking turns laying in just a few inches of water.

My Hu'uli came out yelling and swatting at us.  She stood there and watched, yelling for us to work faster,  as we bailed out the water, little by little in discarded containers we found laying around in the yard.  She wanted the tarp folded back up and put away nicely before Uncle Vinny saw it being mistreated.

We watched as our precious swimming pool got muddier and muddier from the negligent bailing of water.  We knew we were lucky that we didn't get spanked for adding to Hu'uli's water bill (a common complaint anytime anyone washed their hands or took a shower) and for making a big, huge mess.

I thought the tarp looked exactly like it did before we used it, I even thought we did a better job of folding it than Uncle Vinny had in the first place.

Now that I'm an adult, I have a pool in my backyard.  It wasn't a dream of mine or anything, it just kind of worked out that way.  Every time I swim in the cool, clear, blue water, I think about all the times I've swum in dirty, brown water and I think to myself, "What a silly thing swimming is."

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