07 Sep 2009

Freshman on The Hill

Photo by María Helena Carey

Photo by María Helena Carey

In honor of Labor Day and the end of summer, I am going to tell you about a hallowed, sacred place on The Hill.  Only that, ironically enough, this place is not technically located on Capitol Hill, but in the heart of an adorable Prince George’s County, MD, community called Cheverly.  And for the uninitiated, “Cheverly” is pronounced with the Ch sound as in “Chic” and not as in “Cheap”.

The Cheverly Swim and Racquet club (better known as just the Cheverly Pool) is a private, community owned and maintained pool that has been in operation since 1955.  Cheverly itself is a little jewel of a town, set between the Baltimore Washington Parkway and Route 50. And the Cheverly pool is in a place of honor in the community, set beside a rolling hill next to the Cheverly-Euclid neighborhood park– a green swath of land protected from the blistering southern sun by a graceful canopy of trees.

Everything about the place screams idyllic summer: the lanky teenage lifeguards, looking so unabashedly young and tan, being trusted with the lives of all the Cheverly (and Capitol Hill) children; the cozy food shack where for less than five dollars you can get yourself a kingly feast (especially if you’re under ten); the delicate shores of the mushroom pool, which is designed to allow even the clumsiest little neophyte walker to toddle around in the sparklingly clean water. The grass is green and the children are happy, and the adults can relax and/or telecommute because the place is efficiently run.  And there are rules: no eating outside of the designated area; no running; no fort building.  That last rule is not very popular among the three-year old set, but hey– rules are rules.

My friend, who was lucky enough to become a full member this summer, invited me and my brood to go play and hang out at the pool.  I must confess that I was beside myself with giddiness and expectation before finally making it to the quiet little cul-de-sac where the club is located.  I didn’t even know what to imagine, because this pool had been talked up by so many of my Hill acquaintances as such a great place –and such a rule-bound place, too.  I wondered if I would gasp when I actually beheld the imposing 25 meter by 25 yard pool; or if I would squeal with glee upon gazing lovingly at the mushroom fountain.  I wondered if I would run into any Capitol Hill people while there.

When I arrived, though, the place was ordinary.  There were at least ten people I knew who were at the pool that day.  There was no sparkle or unicorns– just a well-maintained and clean facility, staffed by people who have taught their children and grandchildren to swim at that very place, side by side with those children and grandchildren who are experiencing a summer beyond the video game console and the shopping mall.   And I still managed to gasp.

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