As a kid, I lived at the pool in the summer. Morning swim team practice. Afternoon games of sharks and minnows in the deep end. Break time reading and swapping Nancy Drew Mysteries. Sunday morning donuts which was also the one time they allowed rafts in the pool. Games on the 4th of July. The Greased-watermelon challenge was fun to watch but seemed too hard to ever win. The penny dive was more my speed. But the very best summertime activity of all at the pool was Saturday Evening Potlucks.
As I climb out of the pool after hearing the lifeguards blow their whistle for the 6pm break, I notice the long line of rectangular tables stretching from one end of the deck to the other. Already a line was forming and I see my dad in it toward the front. “Yes,” I thought to myself. I hurry to grab my towel, dry off and join him to help hold our place in line.
As I walk, I notice Mrs. Francis place one lasagna casserole on the table, followed by her oldest, Amy, placing the second casserole on the table and her next oldest, Tom adding a jello mold and her next oldest, John adding a bag of rolls to the table. The remaining 4 – Ray, Anne, Meg and Catherine followed in line like little ducklings. All the girls are dressed in matching sundresses. I look and marvel. How did the Francis do it? All 7 kids helping. All 7 dressed and ready for Saturday dinner. My family was so different. Dad and me at the pool all day. Mom helping to orchestra. Me with a towel wrapped around my still dripping swimsuit. I had no idea what being in that family was like but I am sure glad Mrs. Francis and her kids are here with not one, but 2 casseroles of lasagna. It’s my favorite.
All along the long table sit more platters holding food. I see my mom’s homemade fried chicken and potato salad, next to 2 buckets of chicken made by the Colonel. I’m definitely not choosing from a bucket when I can eat my mom’s, I thought. And so many salads – 3-bean, pasta, tuna with noodles. And because it is summer, lots of fresh vegetables – sliced tomatoes from pool members’ gardens. Corn on the cob right off the grill.
Suddenly, I notice the long table seems to be filled. I turned around and now see the line extends back for what seems like a mile. I smile at my dad who smartly got our family a spot toward the front. After the lifeguards are kindly invited to go first, the line begins to move. I get ready to take as much food as I want. My dad’s motto is “Take all you want but eat what you take!” So I grab a chicken leg made by my mom, a scoop from the jello mold. a spoonful of tuna-macaroni salad, and a 4 inch by 4 inch cube of Mrs. Francis’ lasagna. YUM!
Summers growing up for me meant hours swimming at the pool. Endless hours. But the best hour of all was the 6pm Saturday Potluck hour. A meal shared by a community of pool-goers is the best!