David had hauled out the miter saw, getting ready to go to work on the new tops for the tables we keep poolside (doesn’t that make us sound all richie-rich, using words like “poolside?” Like we walk around saying, “Oh, just bring me that martini poolside, dahling, and be sure to make it a dirty,” when we’re really like, “Dude, will you throw me a beer out of that cooler? Try not to get the cap in the water, man. Thanks.”). We were so happy about a week ago. We’d replaced our old pool furniture with some snazzier stuff (and by snazzier, I mean they weren’t plastic and covered with mildew). And because nothing says “luxury” like prowling the discounted inventory at Lowe’s in mid-July, we also ended up getting a couple of little tables. Yes, they had glass in their tops, and yes, it is a ridiculously stupid idea to put glass on top of concrete mere feet away from the pool, the liner of which you spent about a bazillion dollars to replace just two years ago, but when it’s the middle of July, and you’re at Lowe’s with two small children who are thisclose to naptime and the only other option is a vinyl stool with umbrellas painted on it, you make do with what you’re given.
So. The tables were bought, placed proudly among the new pool furniture, and we decided that an ice-cold margarita looked mighty lovely when placed on top of one. Festive outdoor living, we had arrived.
Then came Tuesday. The girls and I had just gotten home from a playdate (oh, that word). We’d parked on the driveway, of course, because that’s where we park (see, when you’re just starting out in the world, as we obviously were six years ago, and you buy a house with a pool, there’s often a very good chance you won’t be getting a garage, too. Beggars not being choosers and all). We’re hustling in to the back of the house–I had an appointment to get to in, oh, 30 minutes, and still had to get them pottied/changed/read to/into bed (such are the perils of the mom of young kids, you know)–when SK stopped in her tracks, looked toward the pool, and asked, “Mom? Why is the ‘brella on the ground? And why is it messy over there?”
You guessed it. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, then sort of squinted one of them open so I could get a look at what Saoirse was talking about without actually having to accept the bad news. Somehow a breeze had come through, knocked over one of the giant umbrellas, which had knocked over a table, which had knocked over another table (this is why I never liked physics in high school. Gravity never, ever seems to work to my advantage, except for the whole keeping-me-on-the-planet part). Shards of amber glass were everywhere: piled up, then fanning out, toward the edge of the pool, into the water. I gulped, imagining the filter current dragging the shiny slivers of glass down the walls of the liner, ripping it open, tearing up the filter, leaking water everywhere and leaving us with a concrete money pit that most certainly wouldn’t add any kind of value to the house, I don’t think.
So what I did was say a lot of curse words inside my head, put the kids down for their naps, change into my swimsuit and get to work cleaning my little treasure trove of shattered glass. Our neighbors were probably wondering what the crazy lady, hair done, makeup on, earrings in, was doing, jumping into a pool with a soup ladle and net skimmer, walking around, staring at the bottom like I’d just lost my contact lens. Turns out that was a dumb move, too (who walks around on top of glass in a pool? Me. That’s who), so I ended up turning off the filter (duh. I know. ) and hiring some frustrated fellow who SCUBA dives in swimming pools for a living (seriously, can you imagine? “Hey, I just had this great dive today, man! Eight feet down and nothing but leaves and bugs!”) to hand vacuum the thing.
I was thinking of this as David set to work slicing up wood. (“Hey,” I said, while the girls played with bubbles in the side yard, “keep your fingers intact? Please?” David’s response? “I’m working on it…”). All the time, all that money, all of the effort to take on a task, or buy a long-wanted object that ends up being something you never should’ve gotten in the first place. How many times has that happened in our lives? How many recipes have we toiled over, when we know–know!–that tofu in agave barbecue sauce is usually never a good idea? How many of us have taken that job, ignoring the pits in our stomachs, only to find ourselves wishing for lay-offs a month later? And how many pairs of shoes have you bought, knowing they would hurt, but oh, they were just too cute?
Common sense is a beautiful concept: it’s supposed to protect us, guide us, give us some sort of compass by which we feel our way through these dark woods of our lives. It’s always there, too. It’s not like common sense suddenly disappears when we need it most. We just choose to ignore it. We think that our brains are smarter than our guts. Silly people, we are. Presumptuous, too.
One of Saoirse’s favorite phrases at the moment is, “Whyyyyy? Mom, why are you doing that? Dad, what’s that for?” She’s a genius (but you knew that already. I tell you all the time). If just once in a while–say, when we’re were standing in the middle of Lowe’s, tired and hungry and surrounded by clearanced patio items–we ask ourselves that question: “why are we doing that?,” a lot of mistakes would probably stay unmade.
Kids. They have all the answers.