John Tinseth remembers the first older woman who caught his eye, and the first time he made his father laugh.
My 14th Summer was hot. Hampton, VA was spared by a breeze or two off the Chesapeake Bay but the place to be, for me, was the pool at the Ft. Monroe Officer’s Club. There was an ocean beach but the water was always infested with jelly fish and the officer’s wives preferred the sandless concrete deck of the pool.
I watched as formulas of baby oil & iodine were massaged by hands with long pink nails. Swimming towards the deep end in a slow breast stroke – I couldn’t take my eyes off them. Not for the nine year olds playing Marco Polo. Not for the F-15 flying over from Langley. Certainly not for girls my age. Not for anyone who wasn’t north of field grade and spritzing her hair with hydrogen peroxide. Lighting another Virginia Slim. Rooting through a purse for sunglasses.
When Major Frampton’s wife stood up in her white bikini, strode to the edge of the deep end and slowly slid her baby oiled body into the water… I wanted to be the water. I poked my head under and watched her glide inches above the bottom of the pool as sunlight bounced off long frog-kicking legs.
Later, in wet trunks and a towel, I stood shivering in the cold air conditioned bar while my father and 30 other men like him sat at their martini lunches. 30 backs in military creased khaki shirts and black web belts leaned forward on bar stools. Packs of cigarettes and Zippo lighters engraved with ‘Fuck Communism’ littered the bar while huge Army issue glass ashtrays smelled like chlorine from the pool.
My father reached into his elephant hide wallet, handed me a dollar for the Fanta machine and I watched him sneak a look at the deep end of the pool. That was the first time I ever told him a joke. “Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln — How did you enjoy the play?” He laughed and so did the officer next to him. I couldn’t wait to wear khaki.
Originally appeared at The Trad