One of my truest loves: my Grandma’s house. Once nestled in Redding, California, it was a place of family, laughter, love, card playing, Its-Its, floaties, homemade cooking, burnt chicken, and shenanigans that all centered around the cool aquamarine pool – the heart of the home and some of my fondest memories.
I spent a couple of weeks each summer of my childhood at my Grandma’s—845 Hallmark Drive. I can still see the image of the one-story shamrock green rancher—us kids sneaking around the green fence, hoping to surprise our grandmother with our arrival. As if my Auntie Julie’s blue and white ‘80s Chevy suburban could be disguised as it pulled into the driveway.
The only way to survive the blazing 100+ temperatures was to dive and splash all day, every day.
I was never happier anywhere in my life than I was floating around the pool with my cousins. I can still close my eyes and remember what it felt like to drift in my tube, feeling the warm sun on my skin as I watched the red dragonflies skip along the water.
I see my grandfather in his sun hat, shorts, knee-high socks, holding his skimmer pole as he gathered up the floating leaves, and my grandmother, sitting in one of the deck chairs underneath the umbrella’s shade in her floral summer sundress. I can hear the splash of the water and the thrill and shrieks of our happiness and my grandparents’ amusement and joy. I can taste the chocolate covered Drumstick as the vanilla ice cream melted down my chin and fingertips. I can smell my grandmother’s baking and latest sweet surprise.
It’s where I learned how to float and play Rummy, dive over a stream of cold water, perch on the faux lawn and tan my buns, run through sprinklers, burn tiny holes in dry leaves, and swim my heart out. I spent hours running barefoot in my swimsuit from pool to air-conditioned house. I’d play cards with my cousins and Grandma and eat and drink sugary delights always stockpiled in their outdoor fridge and freezer.
I see the rainbow of colored terry cloth towels as they hung to dry each evening on the fence and the outdoor ‘80s décor and furniture and fake plants hanging in their macrame rope. I hear the repetitive tick, tick, tick of the old-fashioned sprinklers as they sprayed the lawn and the mosquito catcher on the wall with its iridescent pale blue light that zapped in the balmy warm evenings each time an insect met its death. I remember the bucket of swimmies and red Radio Flyer tricycle that we eventually outgrew but wore and rode anyways. The Donald Duck floaty I rode with delight and the rafts we would lay and sneakily flip one another.
When the sun would settle below the sky, I would grab a plastic ball (the ones you got from the bin at your local drugstore), and I would float, gazing into the inky dark sky filled with hundreds of tiny white dots and the fullness of the moon illuminating the night.
I still float, and often. I sneak down to our community pool, jump in the cool water, and let the water fill my ears. The external noise starts to silence and fade, and I lie staring into the vast sky—the same sky I floated under when I was just an innocent young girl.
It’s in those moments, when the back of my head submerges in the cool water and the sound of my breath is all I hear, that I connect to that place of childhood wonder, innocence, and playfulness and the pure sweetness of those summers days and nights.
Each summer, I look forward to getting in the pool and floating, to let it work it’s magic on me once again. And I hope that you have a Grandma’s house of your own, a place that brings you back home and reminds you of the essence of summer and a place in your life now that recenters you and sparks some wonder—and I invite you to spend some time reconnecting with yourself and the people who matter to you. Whether you recreate the sights, sounds, and smells or simply daydream.