A Pool Grows in Crown Heights



Neighborhood: Brooklyn, Crown Heights

Sunset Park swimming pool

It was the start of another 90-something degrees day. The sixth floor bedroom I shared with my seven-year old brother and five-year old sister on Empire Boulevard in Crown Heights was sweltering. Our apartment was on the top floor directly under the building’s roof, which drew in the sun’s heat with a vengeance, through its protective layer of thick black tar.

During the summer’s suffocating nights, we took turns soaking ourselves down with cold water and sprawling out naked on one of the beds, getting as close as we could get to the single fan provided by our dad. This provided ample opportunity for acquiring the skill of refusing to be disturbed by the very loud sound of the fan’s blades working to create a breeze.

On this particular morning, seventy years, ago, the three of us agreed, as our parents slept in the living room, that we’d had enough of the heat. Our first step into our adventures at home usually meant donning our bathing suits. During the nights when our parents went out and left us to fend for ourselves, wild-west inspired water gun fights required bathing suits and the presence of one dry towel so that we could take turns drying off the tell tale signs of our escapades.

On this day, however, my brother suggested that, instead of a mere water gun fight, we turn our bedroom into an actual swimming pool. We all agreed it was a brilliant idea, thinking that it would allow us to bask in waves of water without waking our parents. So we collected as many pots and large cups as we could, quietly slipping by the sleeping giants, on our route back and forth from the kitchen to the bedroom.

Being the smallest, I used cups of water to attain our goal. My excitement mounted as my feet became increasingly wet with each trip I made to the kitchen for a refill. The cool wet slushiness reminded me of the entrance to the beloved public pool in Sunset Park. I began imagining the smell of chlorine and the fragrance of coconut sunscreen lotions generously slathered onto faces, arms, legs, chests, and backs. However, after about an hour of pouring water onto the bedroom floor, and many attempts to dive, I, all of three years old, felt forced to announce that our hoped for indoor swimming pool just wasn’t getting deep enough to work.

By now, socks and underwear, left around the bed, had become waterlogged obstacles to getting back and forth for more supplies. The skirts on the bottoms of the beds were drenched and beginning to pull off of the bed frames from the weight of the water they were holding. Slipping and sliding took the place of tiptoeing. In a short time this became crashing into furniture and each other. Eventually there were moans and cries of disappointment, hurt knees, bumped elbows, and injured pride.

Strangely, none of us can remember, in the retelling of this story, what actually happened when our parents awoke to a flooded bedroom, living room and kitchen.

But the fantasy of what would have been the only swimming pool of Crown Heights, had we succeeded, has remained a source of the purest joy.


Judith Luongo is an artist and therapist who aspires to write well. She has shown her paintings and collages at shows in the New York area and has had her art published in literary journals.

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§ 3 Responses to “A Pool Grows in Crown Heights”

  • Barbara krinsky says:

    I was rolled over laughing and remembering that escapade so clearly from how you so eloquently have written it!! I do remember the feeling of great disappointment at not getting our pool up and running! It was such a thrill to anticipate floating in our own pool up on that hot 6th floor 3 room apartment! Why don’t any of us remember the consequences? Could the “giants” have had a sense of humor that day and just laughed it off? Or are none of us really alive in this dimension anymore!!! Lol! Damn I’d love to know! We did have fun tho and thankfully were taken on outings to the sunset park pool on occasion!! That was so precious a memory written so well I relived everything moment!!! Love and hugs always!

  • Tayler Bakotic says:

    Charming story of childhood imagination. Smiled throughout the whole thing, wanted to read more!

  • Joe Samuels says:

    Very funny! The innocent genius of children at play, without a thought of the consequences.
    Thank you for the story!

§ Leave a Reply

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