I recently wrote about memories and how they can fade. While many of my memories do fade, some are frozen in my mind and as vivid as the day they . One such memory took place on a cold February day when I leaned just a little too far over our pool rail.
I loved the cold growing up and winter was always a marvelous time. There was no snow that year, but at least it had been cold enough for a layer of ice to cover the water of our pool. It was above ground and installed on a concrete pad behind our house with a wooden deck that wrapped halfway around both sides of the oval pool. The rail of the pool was about a foot above the deck, the water level had dropped since the summer, so the ice was a couple of feet below the edge.
I loved playing with the ice (never on it, that would be dangerous). I had a small souvenir baseball bat. It had once had Louisville Slugger printed on it, but the lettering had long since been worn away by hours of play and my small fingers. I was very careful not to lean too far over to reach the ice with my bat.
There were entire worlds within the pool. I smashed continents and set islands adrift. I was king of this land. I pushed entire cities beneath the thicker ice at the other end of the pool, the ice I couldn’t reach because the deck stopped. I sought out the weakest points and brought by bat down hard, rewarded by the satisfying crack of the ice.
I brought the bat down again and something was different. There was a splash that was louder than normal, yet strangely muffled. It took a moment to realize that I had fallen in the pool. I was never good at being underwater. Is frantically searched for up, but once I found it I met the cold steel of the ice. I cried out, and the cold poured in, forcing more precious air from my lungs. I found a piece I could move and shoved it away only to find more unyielding ice above. There was no way out. Too afraid to open my eyes, I grew strangely calm.
The only sound was of my heartbeat muffled in my ears. It was oddly peaceful. I remembered the year before when a little girl had been walking on a frozen pond near our home. She wasn’t careful like me, she played on the ice, not with it. She broke through, but didn’t go under. A boy heard her screams and pulled her out. It was in the paper.
I wondered if I would be saved. I also wondered why I began to feel so warm as a weird contentment settled over me. Then the water was disturbed and the strong hands of my father painfully lifted and threw me on the deck. He drug me inside and stripped me of my clothes and dignity. He wrapped a dry blanket around me and in the heat of the wood burning stove I realized there was no king there. I was simply a small shivering child.
“Why were you playing in the pool?” The voice of my father was not reproachful, he just wanted answers.
My reply was broken, my still chattering teeth dropped the ends of words in a rapid staccato.
“I was just playing with the ice, not on it. That’s all. I was being careful!” I was not yet old enough to understand the irony of my words, clear as they may be now. My dad obviously didn’t agree that I had been careful, but chose to let it go.
I walked over to the door and looked outside. My kingdom was now a broken wasteland. Shards of ice gleamed in the sun at irregular angles. My eyes caught my bat near the side of the pool, slowly becoming locked into its surroundings by a thin film of newly formed ice. I turned around, looked at my dad and said, “Can I get my bat?”
It would not be the last time I did something incredibly stupid, but I never once played with the ice on the pool again.