Tales of the ‘good old indoor pool’

From March Break family fun to Spring Break hijinks in Mexico, indoor swimming pools were the common thread between two parenting phases, recalls Joe Banks.

joe-banks-march14Two daughters, indoor swimming pools, and museums:  Those were the basic ingredients that went into our family recipe for the annual March Break entree.

Add a pinch of patience and a heavy dose of thrift to stem that “March broke” feeling, and the Banks family could fairly negotiate a week without school without incident — mostly.

Disneyland was never on our menu, it being the dish beyond our modest tastes and means.  As our wealthier and/or indebted neighbours browned themselves in the sunny skies of Florida and the realm of Mickey Mouse, we remained blindingly winter white. Mostly, with few exceptions, we were content with the annual pilgrimage to that big city to our west – Ottawa.

Then, for a family living in the small town of Alexandria, Ont., population 3,600, a trip with the littles to the nation’s capital was a genuine treat. And as much as we now take this city’s attractions for granted, in the 1990s, it was our scratch on the winter itch. No cooking, hotel rooms for one or two days (depending on the budget), and the joy of letting kids be kids.

Ottawa drew us, but not for the usual reasons tourists come. Despite the visual bounties of Parliament Hill, the giant beetles and the Krazy Kitchen, the favourite was always the Kanata Wave Pool.

Had it been up to the girls, we would have spent the week there. They would’ve happily bypassed the art gallery for the heavy scent of chlorinate and echoing shrieks and laugher in that west end facility.

Looking back now, I realize that indoor pools punctuated most of the best quoted memories whenever the girls – now young women in their mid- and late 20s – rode the Spring Break wave. Water warm enough and big enough to swim in seemed every early spring to be the balm that washed the winter weariness away. And every year, I’d wonder: why don’t we get the kids to the pool more often?

Until they were no longer kids.

It’s a cliché for us empty-nesters to wonder where all that time has gone, but indoor pools were the common thread that tied two ends of our parenting phases together:  One minute we’re watching them, their chins barely above the manufactured waves, splashing and laughing with their mushroom cuts and neon swimsuits.  We couldn’t imagine that scene ever changing.

Then, bam:  we’re listening pensively to a long distance call from the high school’s spring break trip to Cancun, Mexico. Youngest daughter, all of a sudden a teenager on the cusp of graduating from high school, is on the phone explaining how her purse and money were stolen by the hotel room housekeepers. Oh, and one of the boys on the trip suffered a concussion from a drunken plunge off the diving board in the middle of the night.

The indoor pool, of course, nicely ties both of those true tales together. But in between and over a decade, the good old indoor pool — be it in the basement of an aging hotel or the cacophonic wave pool – was a March Break winner every time.