Michelle, one of my Facebook friends (I helped care for her son Nick when he was a baby in FCC’s daycare) posted a picture with both of her boys (Gabe & Nick) the other day. They were creating new ‘family moments’ and having the best time in their new hot tub. That one picture flooded me with warm, watery memories which started 35 years ago.
We were living in Davenport (1981-1986) and had some good friends named Mike and Paula. Mike sold tools to John at JI Case. We were pretty close in age but we’d been married longer and our kids were older. Their oldest son was about the same age as our youngest. We had supper at each other’s house and Paula was nearly as addicted to sunbathing as I was. On beautiful summer days I’d call in a lunch order at Yen Ching’s, ($3.35 for Mongolian Beef with an egg roll-Paula always got some chicken dish) load Adam in the car (Josh and Shannon were old enough to be left alone for a couple hours), pick up the food and head to Paula’s. The rugrats would lunch on PBJ, or Mac and cheese (not Chinese, you think we were made outta money)? Jenny still took naps but Adam and Mikey would play outside while the 2 sun goddesses devoured our Chinese food and soaked up some serious vitamin D. Paula was petite, dark and very cute. We were good friends although I was a bit intimidated by her. No grown woman should be that adorable.
It was more fun to go to their house at night as a family, especially during the long, relentless, miserable winters in Iowa. They had a new hot tub, plus VCR’s (although I think Mike decided Beta Max was going to sink the VCR) had just been introduced so we could rent a movie for the kids, while the grownups enjoyed the hot tub. Temperatures would be hovering below freezing (sometimes below zero) when we donned swimming suits and stocking caps, tossed our robes onto frozen chairs and slunk into 102 degree water. Never failed, after a half hour Mike and Hubs would be too hot and full of piss and vinegar (ok, beer). They’d hop out of the tub, all white with red splotchy skin and run for the nearest snow pile and dive in. All of a sudden there’s 2 abominable snowmen squealing like pre-pubescent girls, racing their way back to the tub without slipping or freezing to the patio. Crazy goofballs.
We really missed Mike and Paula when we moved to Michigan in early ‘87, (ironically to the town where Paula was born and grew up). We saw them a couple times when they were visiting relatives but basically lost touch for a couple decades. Why do I let that happen? I should have tried harder to keep a connection with them. (And a lot of other friends too).
I’ve talked about this before but it’s pertinent to the story. So in 1990 the Hubs and I did something astonishing. On May 5th of that year we both stopped smoking-cold turkey. Whoo-ee, tough days for awhile. Months of unrest and uncivilized behavior, but eventually he got over it. Haha, I might have had a few issues too. But for the first time in our married life we were non-smokers. (Our kids thanked us profusely).
Back in the ‘90’s we weren’t much for traveling. All of our vacation time was spent going back to Iowa. John’s dad had passed away but his mom and my folks were there, all of our siblings and most of our nieces and nephews. Yet we wanted to acknowledge that quitting this ugly, smelling, disgusting, costly, unhealthy habit, should deserve some special recognition.
By the time we decided to quit, Hubs was burning through 2 packs a day plus a pack for me. I think a carton was about 11 bucks, but Hubs never bought his smokes that way (and I refused to use my grocery money to buy his). He’d stop at this drive-thru gas station/party store and order 2 packs on his way to work (which cost significantly more buying by the carton. We were easily wasting a couple grand a year (which we could ill afford). I was anal about not running out of cigarettes, but that didn’t bother him. He just run to Buff’s Party store a mile down the road at 9 at night. He’d rarely ask to bum a cigarette from me. He wasn’t fussy about what he smoked, if they were out of Marlboro’s he’d just get a pack of Winston. On the other hand, if a store was out of Tareyton’s, I’d go to another store. He hated Tareyton’s, said they were as dry as a popcorn fart. Whatever. Didn’t want to share with him anyway.
A few months later we decided a hot tub was a great way to celebrate our momentous achievement to be enjoyed by the whole family. We searched long and hard for the perfect hot tub. Size and price mattered. The business we were dealing with in Brooklyn invited our family to come after they closed one night to try out tubs until we found the ONE. Hubs had already poured a large new patio and added a couple sections of privacy fence because our backyard was highly visible.
We all loved the hot tub. Joshua invited his high school friends over (mostly girls) after football and basketball games. Invariably the next morning John would lift the cover only to discover the scummy remnants of makeup, lotion and hair products from the teens. John asked the girls to rinse off before they got in. It was a lot of work to empty, clean, fill and heat it back up. We had recently acquired some new-fangled technology and were quite enamored with it. A cordless phone. Sure enough, a few weeks later John was hunting for the phone and found it on the bottom of the hot tub. Argh, kids. Shannon had Ariana and was attending MSU full time but still found opportunities to come home (30 miles) and play with Ari in the hot tub. But no one enjoyed the hot tub more than Adam.
He was 10 and assumed it was his personal swimming hole. While I thought the best outside temperature to use the hot tub was around freezing, Adam used it daily-year round. In the summer we’d just turn the heater off. He’d snorkel, dive under to save Ninja turtles, Star Wars action figures or see how long he could hold his breath. We bought a floating table, spill proof, double insulated cups. He could always find ways to stay amused in the hot tub. When he was sick of playing alone, he’d talk Josh into playing games with their plastic coated deck of cards. They spent hours in that tub.
The hot tub proved to be a fabulous reward for the whole family. We were in a quandary in 1994 when we were moving 150 miles west. We were buying a house on a lake near Lake Michigan. The house was fairly new and had a small deck off the back. But the back of the house faced the lake and we didn’t want our view blocked by a hot tub. By this time Josh was in college, Shannon was earning her Master’s degree and Adam was beginning 10th grade. So we sold it before we left Jackson. But the years of hot tubbing with the kids remains high on our list of great memories…