Finding Connection Through the Mundane: My Covid Summer

Late in the afternoon on a sunny mid-August day, the temperature climbed over 90 degrees as my mom relaxed on a lounge chair in our grassy, stucco-walled backyard, enjoying an iced tea and a good book while the season’s unusually high mosquito population swarmed me with an onslaught of bites.

Disrupting the otherwise quiet evening was our pool heater, rumbling in a deep, repetitious moan somewhere between a huffing and puffing train and a chainsaw from behind its peeling white fence. The sound was nothing new; we had almost grown to tune out the ear-splitting sputtering of our uncooperative heater.

Our pool heater had been broken for almost two weeks.

Yes, we live in Los Angeles, and, yes, it stays hot and sunny past eight at night, but for us, a broken pool heater is still a serious tragedy.

To say my family likes our pool warm would be a gross understatement. My mom’s idea of an appropriately heated pool is more or less a giant bathtub. My dad and I, who swim for exercise, know that her ideal temperature of 90-degrees is a little gratuitous, but even we are perfectly happy with anything in the 80-85-degree range. So, when our old-but-trusty heater bailed on us, we were quite disappointed.

The first few days were fine, even as the polar bear-shaped thermometer dropped to 87 degrees and there was absolutely nothing my mom could do about it, but the bear soon reached 85, 82, and eventually even — GASP! — 79 degrees.

On the phone with a pool heater repair man, my mom got a little overexcited about his vague statement: “we will get to it when we can.”

“Are you kidding?” She shouted, “This is my daughter’s last week of summer vacation. You told me you would fix it by Monday. IT’S WEDNESDAY.”

I might have told her to relax; I could survive one week without a 100-degree pool. What is more drama to add to 2020? But the conversation was fairly entertaining. This far into quarantine, it was comparable to a decent action movie.

“Okay, okay. I’ll do it as soon as possible,” the repair man answered timidly.

Guilted into showing up by the daughter comment and probably assuming I was five, he arrived a few days later to replace the supply of tiny limestone rocks, which are, apparently, crucial to the pool-heating process. 

“It might work for now,” he offered, rather unhelpfully, “but if it breaks again, we’ll have to replace the whole thing, because it was installed the wrong way.”

A few days later, during my dad’s and my daily dip, my mom gingerly approached the edge of the pool.

“Is it warm?” 

“VERY,” my dad and I rolled our eyes as she hesitated to get into the water.

“But, like, warm enough for me?”

“It’s so hot, my face hurts. Just jump in! You’ll be fine.”

“I don’t know…”

I checked the bear. “It’s 96 degrees.”

“Now, that’s what I call a pool.”

Splashing around in the water, we were able to forget, if only for one luxurious and very damp moment, about our outstandingly uneventful summer in quarantine and the laughable sense of panic that every close-to-home emergency brings.