Real Help for Real Living: The best $150 I ever spent on summer vacation

by Rev. Tony Marciano

I don’t want to disillusion you if your summer plans include taking the kids on a trip to Disney World. I’m sure they’ll love it. But remember research shows their favorite part of the vacation will be the pool at the hotel. So save the nine-hour drive and go to a local hotel with a pool and make some memories… only kidding, kinda.

Back in the early 1990s, my wife and I bought our first home. It was in New Jersey where they hadn’t heard about homeowners associations and what they allow you to do or not to do on your property. We received an ad from K-Mart advertising a 12-by-3 pool for $150. The price not only included the pool, but also the ladder, filter, everything I needed for summer fun. We bought it.

My childhood memories were of a 20-by-3.5 pool in the backyard. Back in the 1960s no one ever heard of putting a fence around the pool. My dad just put it in the backyard and we had fun. I wanted the same for my kids.

We unboxed it and just stared at it. The potential for fun-filled memories was unlimited. We cleared a spot in the backyard and worked hard to make sure we got it round and not oblong. The pool of my childhood had metal bars that you clipped together and formed a perfect circle in which to lay the wall. My pool had no bars, just the wall. We got it round, put in the liner, attached the filter and added liquid memories.

This had to be the smallest aboveground pool I have ever seen. When I was in high school, friends had pools that were at least 4-feet deep. The smallest was 15-feet wide. The cool families had one that was 18-feet wide. My pool was 12-feet wide and 3-feet deep. But no one else I knew had a pool. Suddenly, we became the coolest family because we had a pool. If it created liquid memories, it also created instant friends.

We had more fun in that pool. We played games such as Marco Polo, created whirlpools (as I worried we were going to twist the liner and lose the pool). It became that place that my mermaid daughter demonstrated her swimming skills and my youngest son learned the pool was his friend.

We had the pool for three years before we moved just outside of Washington, D.C. There we bought a house with a homeowner’s association. I wanted to set up the pool inside the garage. My wife thought I was crazy. It stayed in the box. Eventually we moved to Charlotte and got rid of the pool.

At the time, K-Mart was the only one selling such a pool. Today, everyone sells them, bigger than my 12-by-3 pool. Sometimes I wish I had a bigger choice back then when my kids were younger. I would have gotten a deeper pool, a wider pool (After all, don’t we, as Americans, always want things bigger and better?).

I should have looked at the Scripture verse that says, “I have learned in all things to be content.” Looking back, I am grateful. For three brief years, I gave my kids a wonderful summer. I gave them memories to cherish. And it only cost $150.

I’ll be back in two weeks. Until then, live well, my friend.

The Rev. Tony Marciano is executive director of the Charlotte Rescue Mission, which provides a free, long-term Christian recovery program for men and women addicted to drugs and alcohol.

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