In the thick of summer, when Philly becomes Florida



    Sometimes from deep within the steel heart of Pennsylvania’s frigid winters, my husband suggests we return to his home state, Florida. I tell him I hate small-town life. I tell him Southern summers are too sultry.

    But now that Philadelphia-area temperatures are hitting the high 80s, a persistent humidity drooping over our afternoons, I’m wondering if Jeff might be onto something — especially since we’ve also been having late-day thundershowers, the Florida kind that interrupt outdoor activity and frighten our 3-year-old without cooling anything down.

    Take the other day, for instance, as we pulled into the Belmont Hills pool parking lot, only to have the heavens open.

    “Will I be OK in my bed?” Jane asked, worried the storm would chase her into her sleep, still several hours away.

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    “Pop-pop says thunder is just barrels rolling in the sky,” Griffin, 6, said.

    “I want to swim!” his twin, Georgia, cried.

    So although the skies looked just as ominous the next afternoon, I was determined this time to defy the elements. I awoke Jane early from her nap, optimistically slathered my three children in sunblock, and tossed yesterday’s unused beach bag, and the kids, into the minivan.

    Beating the heat

    We weren’t the only ones trying to get in a swim before the storms. The pools were teeming with children. My own kicked off their flip-flops and dashed into the water before I was able to gather my wits. Well, at least my two girls made a run for it. Griffin, who hates to be submerged, is still working up his summer courage. But it was so oppressive outside, even he wandered in and began to enjoy himself.

    “Mommy!” Griffin cried. “I held my head underwater for seven seconds!”

    What he really meant was that he had placed his face on the pool’s surface for the length of a short breath. Jane, however, kept jumping off the ledge into my arms, rising up sputtering and smiling each time. Georgia chased a plastic orange rocket, splattering my sunglasses with her furious scissor kicks.

    Meanwhile, next to me, a young boy, apparently unattended, decided to vault over his sister as she stretched out in the water. “That’s too far! Too far!” I found myself shouting. “I just don’t want you to land on her back.” He proceeded anyway, barely missing paralyzing his sister, I suspected.

    Then another woman arrived with her preschool-age daughter, who began sailing from the side of the pool into the crowd.

    “Be careful!” her mother hollered, becoming a bit frantic.

    “What’s your daughter’s name?”

    “Trouble,” her mom said. “Her middle name is Lawsuit.”

    After Trouble Lawsuit performed another heart-stopping leap, her mother grabbed the scruff of her rash guard and hauled her from the pool.

    I monitored all this while fending off a pair of adolescents involved in a turbulent game of tag, fishing someone else’s hair from my arm, and trying to keep an eye on my own three kids, who flickered in and out of the fray. I couldn’t help recalling news reports this time of year about how it takes only seconds for a child to drown. So I was relieved when Georgia said she had to go potty, wondering if perhaps even the sewer-slick floors of the facility’s restroom might be preferable to this chaos.

    Beating the storm

    After our bathroom trip, I lured my kids away from the water’s edge with the promise of treats from the snack bar. We sat on our soggy towels in the grass, nibbling obscenely large ice cream sandwiches. Georgia and I quickly finished, but my son and younger daughter are the slowest ice cream eaters in the civilized world. So I scarfed down the rest of theirs, too, as the raindrops started pelting and the thunder barrels rolled in once again.

    “Everybody out!” the lifeguards called.

    “I guess that’s it for the day,” I told my children, somewhat relieved. We hopped inside the minivan just as violent streams of water baptized our vehicle.

    “That was fun!” Griffin exclaimed with a sudden enthusiasm for swimming. “Can we go back tomorrow?”

    “Maybe,” I said, as the thunder rumbled.

    Or maybe, I thought, we’ll just go to Florida.

    Courtenay Harris Bond blogs about her life with three kids, a dog and a husband.

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