The sky is blue, the sun is blazing and the aroma of SPF 60 sunscreen permeates the air.
The husband was up early, wearing his bright orange hearing protectors, inflating the large pool that came in a box picturing clean-scrubbed, happy children at play. Inflated and filled, clear water in the pool shimmers in the dazzling rays of morning sun.
The whole crew is here today – 11 clean-scrubbed, happy grands just like the children on the box. Make that 11 plus one. A 6-year-old neighbor boy from around the corner has joined the pack, making it a full dozen.
The kids are unleashed, running and jumping, splashing and screaming, younger ones taking time to wipe water from their eyes on fluffy clean towels.
Soon, two adorable little ones are using butterfly nets to strain bits of grass from the glistening pool water.
An hour later, it appears my colander is being used to strain even more grass and bits of thatch from the pool.
By 11 a.m., the sun is nearly overhead, and the water is turning cloudy.
A 4-year-old whispers to her mother that she likes the neighbor boy. I considered sending the neighbor boy home.
By noon, the water is markedly murky and the 4-year-old is giving the neighbor boy rides on the back of a tricycle as she circles the patio.
Grass and thatch cling to all their legs and arms but not a one of them cares. The children on the box would care.
The once-clean towels are now soaked, matted and trampled. A 3-year-old runs by with a dried reed stuck to her back.
A 1-year-old, who only recently learned to walk, totters over with a water shooter in each hand. You have to wonder who she'll take aim at, her older cousins or the grandma who just cut off her supply of Cheerios.
After a lunch of PB&J and apples, the wild things dutifully line up for another application of sunscreen because it's not over 'til it's over. The once beautiful lawn encircling the pool is an ever-widening mud slick. A tear glistens in the husband's eye.
By 2 p.m., the pool water is a muddy brown. If kids who had not been here since morning came over and someone said, "Get in the pool," the kids would recoil in horror and run screaming.
By 3 p.m. the pool water appears to be morphing from a liquid to a solid. The grandchildren are officially swamp people.
Cushions on the patio chairs bear mud prints and the beach towels are likely history. T-shirts and cover-ups that were once white are now the color of dirt.
At 5 p.m., the neighbor boy's teenage sister arrives to pick him up. He culls through piles of flip-flops and pool toys scattered throughout the yard searching for his tennis shoes and mud-colored T-shirt. On his way out the door, he politely asks my daughter, "Was this play or a party?"
"It was play," she says.
"Oh," he said, "I thought there might be a party bag."
"No, this was just play. You should see them when they party."
(Lori Borgman is a columnist, author and speaker. Email her at email@example.com.)