This morning on my way to work the boredom of another commute was made a little better when I lucked into a string of 80’s songs I love but hadn’t heard in awhile. The highlight of that playlist was none other than the Guns N’ Roses song Sweet Child O’ Mine.
On it’s own the song stands by itself as one of the great rock ‘n roll songs of all time. I could listen to that high pitched guitar loop over and over. But what really makes this song a favorite O’ mine are the memories it brings along with it. When I hear Sweet Child O’ Mine I’m instantly transported to the summers of my youth spent at Shady Grove Pool.
I remember being the skinny tan kid who, upon his mom paying our way in, would immediately head to the left and dart through the men’s locker room. Not because I was overly enthusiastic to swim, but because I was too old to walk through the women’s locker room with my mom and I wanted to avoid all awkward interactions with the teenagers smoking in the men’s locker room. That stuff stunk and their jokes were lame so it was best to just blast by them. Beating your brother and sister outside was also a point of pride not to be overlooked. Those slow pokes. What kind of dorks would let their mom hold them back and not let them run for fear of slipping on the wet floor? Pffft, losers.
Once I met back up with mom and siblings it was time to make the most important decision of the day. Where would we put our blanket? The answer — nowhere near where any of us kids would pick which meant we had to walk AN ENTIRE 15 EXTRA SECONDS to sit where my mom wanted us. Once the blanket was laid out it was time to chuck off my old white Nike hightops with the Red swoop, get mad because the right one wouldn’t slide off properly because I couldn’t be bothered to wear socks, and then find my way to the shallow end before my mom could try to put disgusting sunblock on me.
What a pool! I can remember thinking it was bigger than a football field. At one end you had the shallow water with all of the little kids. At the other end, all of the weird teenagers who actually made me envious because they had the skills necessary to jump off the high dive. Back then my eyes worked well enough that I can remember wading around in the water and looking at the diving board anticipating the day that I, too, could fall in the water from a slightly higher position than previously imaginable. But until that day, I always had the castle to rule.
The castle was my domain. Swimming took effort and skill. Getting on your stomach and pulling yourself around with your arms inside the castle was easy so that’s what I did. Hiding away from your mom and getting out of the sun was just icing on the cake. As a weirdo teenager the castle doubled as a great place to sneak a kiss from your girlfriend if you were too shy for PDA. But I never saw any of that nonsense when I was patrolling the castle. I wouldn’t have stood for it no how. Younger me would be so disappointed in the older kid I became.
In August, when the summer days were at their most fierce, my mom would keep all of us at the pool the entire day. At some point, without fail, I would make it a point to whine in order to get food at the snack bar. Even to this day I find that whining rather than calmly stating my desire to eat works most effectively for a quick turn around but that’s neither here nor there. My mom would give me a quarter and I’d begin the trek to the snack bar where Sweet Child O’ Mine would always seem to be playing. I’d order a green Popsicle that came in some very odd tubular packaging and couldn’t be opened easily. Just about the time the pretty girl I was too shy to make eye contact with handed me the Popsicle the song would end on the radio and I’d run back to my mom and begin a new but very important process of huffing until she figured out a way to open up the Popsicle. She’d hand me my finally opened snack and leave me with my thoughts where all that was left to do was figure out when my time would come to leave the castle behind and make my way up to the high dive.