The Disappearing Pool

A lie stands on one leg, the truth on two.”

Benjamin Franklin

Melissa and I have been lying to our kids for over twenty years.

We had three of our four babies when we were living in Marblehead, Massachusetts.  Our house was a hundred and twenty-five-year-old late Victorian with a slate Mansard roof.  An historic landmark on our street, it was neither large nor fancy, but it was our kids’ early childhood home.

Being an old community, at least by North American standards, the basement was dark and musty — the ideal environment for a scary monster who consumed gallons of oil to produce steam, propelling it angrily upward to waiting radiators .

One of the ways we tried to make our basement friendlier was by telling our young ones there was a swimming pool beneath the floor.  Sort of like the pool at Bedford Falls High School — the one George and Mary fell into in “It’s A Wonderful Life”, but much smaller.  The switch to retract the floor would only work after all of them were in bed.  

We got a lot of mileage out of that one!

(Before some of you jump to conclusions, telling and prolonging falsehoods wasn’t a foundational aspect of our parenting.  Melissa made sure of that!)

Our eldest daughter, Rachel, decided last summer to visit Massachusetts where so many of her childhood memories were grounded:  People, playgrounds, parks, ice cream stops, beaches and yes — the old Marblehead house.  It had been sixteen years since our family had moved away.

The owner of the house was very gracious, allowing our daughter to not only visit, but to linger in her old room where so much of her literary imagination was rooted.

Upon her return, I asked Rachel if she’d gone down to the “pool level” on her visit.  She responded that she hadn’t.

Well, there you go.  The legend lives on.

Blessings on your home,


The lead photo in this article is the actual pool used in shooting the dance scene in “It’s a Wonderful Life”, released in 1946. It’s located in the gym at Beverly Hills High School in Beverly Hills, California.

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