We had never lived in a neighborhood like this one before. There were rules about almost everything: how high your grass could get before you’d get one of those friendly little reminders in the mail, where you could park your car, obviously not on the lawn as we soon found out, before somebody would show up at your door asking you to move your vehicle to a less unsightly spot on your driveway, how many people could park up and down your street when you were having a party, and how exactly it was you could gain access to the community pool in the middle of the neighborhood.
Deed restrictions they called them, and they were meant to maintain the integrity of our subdivision, or so the bill said every year end when it would come in the mail. In all honesty, though, we didn’t really care too much for the integrity of our neighborhood. This was the first place we lived where we actually had two restrooms! And that was way more important to us than anything else. Before that, all eight of us – my eldest sister had already married and moved out – had to take turns showering and relieving ourselves in the one restroom we had in the little bitty first house my parents had been able to purchase. As you can imagine, mornings and anytime we had to be somewhere, our house was especially a stressful place to be.
How my sister managed to get ready at that little house for her wedding, as well as the rest of us, and still make it to the church on time is still a mystery to me, but those were different times and we were all used to sharing our space, and everything else about ourselves, with each other.
So no! We didn’t care much about the deed restrictions in our new neighborhood, and considered them more of a bother than anything else. My mother in particular loathed the fact that she couldn’t raise her chickens and other livestock in our backyard. Nobody in our old neighborhood had ever complained about our jumbo-sized pig, Joaquina in the backyard! Still, the one thing we were all excited about was the fact that we had an actual community pool where we could spend our summer days if we wanted to, and not just anyone was allowed in it. You had to have an official homeowners association issued identification card in order to be granted swimming pool access, which meant that in order to get one of those green-laminated ID’s you had to be current with your annual fees.
We wanted in, so we paid our dues on time for the first time that year.
There we went, all six of us, my three sisters and two brothers, with our two dollars each to pay for our pool access cards and ready to have our pictures taken in order to prove later we were in fact the people we said we were when we’d want to get in the pool. I know… it was all very bureaucratic.
Once we had the ID cards we did frequent the pool quite a bit. Not all of us together all of the time, but usually at least three or four of us at a time. I was out of high school and probably about 18 or 19 years old at the time, with my youngest sister in elementary school and my eldest sister who still lived with us a full fledged professional in the real world.
Which brings me to our dog at the time… no me acuerdo ni siquiera como se llamaba, but he was a stocky little furry fellow, about half the size of a full grown lab probably, a mut like the rest of all of the other dogs we ever owned, and a dirty blonde color all over. Anyhow, this particular lazy summer day we were in the mood to do just that: be lazy and do nothing besides swim in our community pool. By this time we had already gotten used to showing up at the piscina, that was the proper word for it in Spanish, and weren’t as embarrassed as we were at the beginning to just sign in and claim our own area of the poolside deck. I’d say we were even a little cocky about our community pool. No me acuerdo cuantos ibamos, but there we went, sporting our most presentable swimwear, each with our own personal towel from the stack mamá had just finished washing, and ready to act “all fancy” in our private neighborhood pool. Only we hadn’t noticed that when we’d left the house our mut of a dog had trailed right behind us.
As soon as we jumped in and started splashing around we heard the terrifying screams. The pool bouncer, a Caucasian woman in her late forties, was racing around the pool screaming at the top of her lungs, the lifeguards, first caught off guard and then springing into action, were, some of them, trying to calm startled children, even some adults, the others running around, grabbing whatever they could to pull our dog out of the water, and there smack in the middle of the crystal blue pool, our perro, swimming around like he was just another properly-identified-member of the community. He tried swimming in our direction and thought it was all fun and games, but we were much too quick for his dog paddling. As soon as we realized it was our dog we all jumped out of the pool, grabbed whosever towel we could get to first from our pile, and bolted out of the community pool and parking lot. We hadn’t even made it to the stop sign at the end of the street when we heard our dog barking behind us.
It was embarrassing beyond belief, and there was no way that anyone had not made the connection, that the mut in the pool belonged to the Mexicans, but all the way home we couldn’t help but crack up about what had just happened.
Nope. We definitely weren’t fancy pool people!