The first thing to know is that I’m not a very good swimmer. The second thing that’s important to know is that I love our neighborhood pool.
And here at Labor Day weekend, I’m sad to see it close for a host of reasons.
We were so pleased when we moved to Silver Spring early in 2000 to find several nearby pools that are part of Montgomery County’s wonderful network of neighborhood pools. Candice, with her usual thoroughness, visited them all in the hopes of finding the one that was right for us. We had vague thoughts of Andrew and Claire joining a swim team, but we really didn’t know what that meant and it really didn’t play much of a role in our decision. In the end, we settled on Franklin Knolls, which was an older pool, nestled in a grove of trees at the end of a dead-end street, that just struck us as having a family – yet slightly funky – feel that would fit us.
The pool was family oriented and Andrew and Claire immediately found friends. We learned about the Gator swim team and became more involved with each passing year. The funky factor results from the great mix of diverse people from very interesting backgrounds along with the fact that our pool isn’t “regulation” length so all our swim meets – even our home meets – are at the other team’s pool.
Why am I sad to see the pool close? Not just because it signals summer’s end is near. I’ll miss the pace of life that comes with the pool — and the wonderful relationships that pace fosters.
Franklin Knolls is pretty much our life for the first half of summer. Every day before work I’d drop Andrew and Claire off at Franklin Knolls between 6:30 and 7 a.m. for swim team practice. (They begin with an hour of “dry lands” exercise before hitting the pool.) In the evenings I’d often come home to greet Candice and the twins coming in from a full day with friends. We’d enjoy “No Cook Fridays” and the annual Crab Feast. After taking in the delightful July 4th parade in Takoma Park — a Brown family tradition (see the picture of the stilt walker who mugged for the camera as she went by) — we spent most of the rest of the afternoon at Franklin Knolls eating hamburgers, lounging, talking with old friends, and meeting new ones.
Swim team has also been one of the great traditions of summer for us for seven years. We like the competition and the exercise for the kids, but we love the kids and their parents. The Franklin Knolls Gators are a good team but not at the top of the league, so that means we end up competing in divisions in the C – G range. That fits us fine, because the parents — not to mention the swimmers — are WAY too competitive when you get in the A or B divisions.
Candice is the Assistant Clerk of Course, so she knows every child on the swim team. This year I took on some more administrative responsibilities. (As Assistant Treasurer I now get to carry around a Franklin Knolls debit card in case we need a hot dog run for the after-meet cookout). I also sign up to time when I can, but mostly I just enjoy the meets — cheering on all the kids, drinking coffee at our 7 a.m. meet-ups at the parking lot on Saturday morning (remember, we ALWAYS have to travel), and watching the occasional phenom blow everyone out of the water (such as the 12-year-old on another team this year who was beating our strong 15-18 year olds). (UPDATE: One of the phenoms we saw was Katie Ledecky…well before she become one of the world’s most decorated Olympic champions. It was pretty clear she was something special.)
The end of swim season brings the wonderful team banquet where you eat mediocre country club food, listen to the coaches say something nice about every swimmer, and occasionally get inspired as when a kid who will never win a race gets a standing ovation when the coaches give him the spirit award. Franklin Knolls has had a nice tradition since we’ve been involved of hiring its coaches from within. Andrew and Claire have been blessed to have some great role models — just a few years older — who take off from their studies at Stanford, Brown, the University of Maryland, and other schools to return to the pool where they once competed and coach our kids during the summer.
You don’t dare schedule a trip during swim season, so many families leave town immediately following the banquet for vacations…and we follow that timetable as well. Because of that rhythm, the pool changes character for us in August. We still drop by on the occasional day for a swim or picnic. Andrew has been working the front desk for a couple of years, so he’s connected more than the rest of us this month. And with many schools now back in session, we joked that Andrew was “paid to study” as he’d held down the front desk this week and did his summer reading while keeping an eye out for the handful of moms and pre-schoolers who still took advantage of the last days of August.
Labor Day means we all head back to school and work, and Franklin Knolls closes up for the year. We’ve developed such friendships over the years that we’ll see many of our pool families during the school year. But it just isn’t the same as sitting around the picnic tables at Franklin Knolls on a lazy Saturday afternoon with all the time in the world. Here’s to summer and memories!
More to come…