A Writer on the Joys and Sorrows of Swimming Pool Ownership

In deep.

  • Category
    Homes, People
  • Written by
    Richard Lowe
  • Illustrated by
    Yuiko Sugino

Becoming a parent changes you. Some changes hit like whiplash: an immediate lack of sleep and an abundance of Googling “Is my baby sick?” Other changes creep up on you. You notice that your freezer is overflowing with chicken nuggets, or you are spending an inordinate amount of time driving over Laurel Canyon so your daughter can go to school in WeHo. One change that surprised me? I used to love pools. Now I can’t stand them. Or rather, I can’t stand mine.

When we were looking to move to the Valley, we prioritized a pool. It was the only way my wife, who gets Heat Rage, would consider the neighborhood. Some friends cautioned against it: “It’s better to make friends with a pool than own one.” But oh what fun it will be! We’ll splash and play and that’ll be that! Well, that is not that. I spend more money and time maintaining the pool than I do exercising. Only one of those is good for my blood pressure.

Part of the problem is that the original owner was a swimmer and built the pool as large as he could. Apparently, there were no regulations in 1954, so it’s 40 feet long, 20 feet wide, and 9 feet deep. The cubic volume is somewhere between “why” and “I hate it.” Nowadays, you couldn’t donate enough money to the city to get a permit for a pool that size.

Even our pool guy, Tony, looks miserable when he comes over. And somehow I’ve found myself in a handshake deal where I have to clean and roll up the enormous cover and empty the sweeper tank before he arrives. He also gave me an algae brush so I can “pre-clean” the walls for him. At first I thought he was being nice, but that was no gift—it was a trap. And still, I pay him. A sucker is born every minute.

Worse, we don’t use the pool between November and May. The cost of heating it is the same as an omakase meal at Katsuya. Each. Day. And so the pool lies dormant more than half the year, an unusable mirage, even though I (and Tony) still take care of it. Rain or shine, I’m out there while my family sits inside blissfully unaware that I’m muttering plans to fill it and slap a putting green on top.

But now we’re in those other five months. You know them. The months where cacti scream for relief and your earlobes sweat. I start to see the pool differently. The water shimmers as the sun heats it to a perfect 85 degrees. No longer a mirage, it’s an oasis. Friends come over (the wise ones who befriended the foolish pool owners—two thumbs pointing to this guy), the barbecue fires up, and the colorful floats inflate. My daughters squeal for joy as they trot to the water’s edge. In those moments, my disdain evaporates like the weekly chlorine treatment I’m paying ad infinitum. Because becoming a parent changes you. Turns out you’ll do a lot for your kids, even grouchily scrape algae off the walls of your swimming pool.

Richard Lowe lives in Studio City with his wife, Chelsee, and their two daughters.