It's been a regular feature here for eight years. Every summer. Through its many incarnations (a different one every season) it has cooled the offspring almost every day during the torrid summers here. It has provided them with a respite from the heat and reason to laugh and splash and run and otherwise indulge themselves. It's probably saved a few baths as well.
Many of our neighbors have in ground pools. They are, if not a standard real estate feature, then at least a fairly common one. The Valley gets hot and pools are how residents here beat the heat. Most of the pools aren't even heated, depending instead upon the sun to take care of that, and the sun does.
Our house has no pool, so the inflatable variety has been our only option. They have been purchased usually in late May and we have generally been fortunate enough to have them make it through an entire summer (one year it took three purchases to get to September).
The first year, when the Boy was a year old, saw the classic round model, easily inflated and filled. His summer that year was a wet one (and carefully watched.) His first unassisted steps took place in that pool on the Fourth of July, practice for the dry land walking milestone that followed 8 days later.
The following year, as if to make up for the dullness of the previous year's model, I went all out. An inflatable water park with a slide and ring toss, a basketball hoop and a rain curtain. It was a hit with the kid and though initially fearful of the slide he eventually made the big climb and indulged himself. It was almost daily.
In 2008, the new pool reflected his growing interest in dinos/dragons and featured two slides that he could utilize. The poor design of the pool meant that once inflated neither the head nor the tail stayed on the ground, but I doubt he noticed. That year, for her introduction to water recreation, the Girl got her own small pool complete with an inflatable sunshade. In contrast to the Boy's crazed water fest she was often found contentedly sitting in her pool, sucking her finger.
The next year the realization that it would be shared by two kids meant that a large (and therefore) more pedestrian pool was called for. Deep and long, it easily accommodated two active children. That model pool became the standard from then on. Every year since it has been the one we spent our hard-earned dollars upon (in either green or blue.)
Fortunately it proved large enough to keep three of them content once the G joined the fray.
Today I filled the pool for probably the last time this season. School begins in three days and even though the weekends are a possibility it seems we spend little time with it on Saturdays or Sundays. This year has seen a substantial drop in interest with the pool. The girls still get excited when they see me fill it, but rarely request it. The Boy shrugs his shoulders at the opportunity; he would rather go bike-riding with the boy next door. As a result, this was probably the last year to include the early season run to Target for "the pool."
I find myself sadly sentimental about this "passage" (as I am about a lot of things regarding the kids of late.) I will miss the constant smell of sunscreen. I will miss the exhaustion-provoked naps that followed their splashing. I will miss their screams of "Make It Rain!" as I thumb the hose-end and chase them about the yard. I will miss running a towel over their heads and the tangled mass of child hair left in its wake. I will miss the sound of their laughter as I make snacks to appease them when it is time to come in. I will miss the constancy of towels drying in the sun every late afternoon. I will miss the clumped mass of grass clippings floating there at day's end. I will even miss the exertion from dumping the last of the water that failed to drain or, patch in hand, the frustration of desperately seeking the most recent hole. I will miss the sincere "thank you" that soundtracked the filling of the pool, and the joyful, wet, hugs after.
But mostly, I will miss my kids being little kids, because all too quickly they just aren't anymore.