Pool Toys


April 26, 2011 by Harley May

We own a stroller that is so beat up we couldn’t give it away if wanted to. I’ve run and walked miles in it. Now it’s only used for trips to our neighborhood pool where I’ll bring matchbox cars for my toddler to play with, a tennis ball to throw, and small heavy things for my older two to dive after. 

One day a golf ball traveled with us to the pool. The children threw it in the water, let it sink to the bottom, and swam after it. Eventually they made some friends with more interesting toys and forgot all about it. Later a group of teens, both boys and girls, at the other end of the pool began throwing a white golf ball back and forth with each other. My daughter immediately noticed and pointed it out. “They’ve found our ball!”

I smiled. This meant I wouldn’t have to shuffle over light blue tile with the hopes my foot would touch something round and difficult to see. “We should just let them enjoy it. You have other toys and you’re playing with your friends.”

“But I want it.” 

“We can share it. Would you like to explain that we’d lost it – thank them – and ask if they’ll give it back to us once they’ve finished with it? It’s like we’re taking turns. We can take turns, right?”

This made sense to her. She nodded and left a path of wet footprints between the teens and me. She does not know humiliation and I envy her that. With her red hair in a ponytail, she spoke to them, bright-eyed and smiling. Unafraid. I wouldn’t have had the courage to do such a thing at her age.

“The ball is hers?” one of them asked.

I couldn’t hear the following responses, but my daughter turned, walked back along her footprint path, and started playing in the water again.

An hour went on and I completely forgot about the golf ball. We needed to leave. I dried the children off, loaded them in the stroller, and my daughter piped up, “Our golf ball!”

“Of course.” I nodded, left the children in the shade with juice boxes and goldfish in hand, and walked to the teens. They had stopped swimming and gathered around a table. A girl with long dark hair down her back bounced the ball on the faded terracotta stone with a “clack clack.” As I neared, the clacking stopped.

“Hey guys. We actually need to go, so if you’re all done throwing the golf ball around, do you think we can have it back? Please?”

A boy at the table spoke up. “We don’t have it.”

Confused, I paused and locked eyes with the girl with long dark hair. “I just saw you bouncing it.”

She stared back at me. “Do you see it in my hands now?”

My eyes watered behind my sunglasses as I struggled to process all this. “My daughter is five. Five. She walked over here and asked you for it when you were done.”

The girl stood there in her string bikini with her arms crossed under her chest, pushing her breasts up. “We don’t have it.”

I looked at their table covered in towels and book bags. The four or five teens sitting there wouldn’t meet my gaze. My skin was hot with something that had nothing to do with the sun. The something spread into my eyes and turned to more moisture. I was thankful I still had my sunglasses on. I swallowed. “If I am wrong, if you have brought a golf ball from one of your houses and it is yours, I am a reasonable person and will understand this.” I spoke slowly so I wouldn’t sound angry. Or cry. “If that is the case, just tell me.”

The girl flung her hair over her shoulder. “We don’t have it.”

“Really?” I scanned the group and a few of them met my eyes for a moment before they looked down.

“Really.” She stepped in between her friends and I.

I turned my back on them, focused on my three children in the stroller, and walked away. While I answer to many names, I didn’t respond to “fucking cunt” muttered behind me. My vision blurred more from shock than anger.  

“Where’s the ball?” my daughter asked when I started pushing them toward the gate. 

I swallowed the choke in my throat. It travelled to my chest and settled around my heart, making it wet. “They didn’t have it.”

“They didn’t have it? They lost it? They should look for it. You should tell them to help you look for it.”

“Dearest, I get the feeling they won’t help me.” My voice sounded heavier than I wanted.

“They should. If you lose something that belongs to someone else, you should help them find it,” she said, turning to look at me.

I stopped pushing the stroller and smoothed her still-wet bangs out of her face. Part of me wanted to remind her about the bucket of golf balls at the bottom of her father’s closet. But I didn’t. “I agree. Only I don’t have control over them. I’ve only got control over me. I’m sad they won’t help, but I’m not going to start a fight over it if they aren’t being nice.” 

To her credit she turned back around and stuck her thumb in her mouth. I re-adjusted my sunglasses and started to walk again. It wasn’t until a clack clack sound echoed across the pool behind me that I let my tears fall.


20 thoughts on “Pool Toys

  1. Darren Pardee says:

    This is my favorite piece on this site, ever.

  2. What a heartbreaking post. Little bastards. I want to beat them up for you. But I admire your calm exterior. And great story you have shared.

  3. They say writing is easy. Just sit down with a pen and paper and open a vein. They say.

  4. I’m about to come down there with my big boots on. I will get you your ball.

  5. Great story, it can be kind of sad the way people can treat each other these days. I’m with jules on wanting to beat them up. Nice job staying calm.

  6. Harley May says:

    Thank you all for reading and commenting. Your offers of violence and retribution are, um, appreciated.

    I assure you, any “calm” you might be reading came more from shock than anything else. You are all the best.

  7. lynnbeighley says:

    Harley, I want to cut her. What a bitch!

  8. Jen Knox says:

    Great restraint. I wonder about people sometimes… writing is the best for reconciling the stupidity of others, no?
    Well-written story, Harley.

  9. Annie says:

    Oh wow. I so empathize with this. And, unfortunately, violence against children (even those who richly, richly deserve it) is still frowned upon by polite society and law enforcement. Really, there oughtta be a law…

  10. Patty Blount says:

    I would like to send your daughter a new ball.

  11. Tawna Fenske says:

    What a lovely (albeit, heartbreaking) post. I believe in karma. And I believe that b*tch will get what’s coming to her.


  12. Ali says:

    What complete jerks. There’s no reason or excuse for that kind of behavior, excpet they are crappy people.

    You’re a good mother — and your daughter sounds like a sweatheart. You handled the situation was grace.

    Beautifully written post.

  13. Girl Friday says:

    What a horrible bunch of kids – and over a golf ball, really? I think it’s the random unkindness that shocks us to tears at moments like these. On the plus side your daughter sounds adorable and your post is beautifully written 🙂

  14. Shain Brown says:

    Karma is nice, but revenge is better. Bitches!

    We are adults and life isn’t fair, but kids, come on. I have to say the execution was amazing and look at all the emotion you evoked. Careful Harley May or we are going to accuse you of being talented.

  15. Simon L. says:

    Very well written, darlin’. Very well written indeed.

    And don’t worry about those kids. They, uh, won’t be troubling you anymore. You should probably also delete this comment after you’ve read it….

  16. Harley May says:

    Again, I’m overwhelmed that you all took the time to read and comment. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  17. Trisha Leigh says:

    I love this and I love you. No matter how much you probably wanted to smack that little brat across the face and wrest the golf ball from her fingers, what you did was set an example for your daughter, and be gentle with her as she learned one of life’s hardest lessons – people don’t always do the right thing, even when it’s clear what that is.

    Love your face.

  18. Patrick Alan says:

    I don’t allow teens or golf balls in my pool.

  19. […] my friend, Harley May, posted a heart-wrenching essay about teen attitude gone so horribly awry, it clouded my vision and made me want to pound some […]

  20. […] my friend, Harley May, posted a heart-wrenching essay about teen attitude gone so horribly awry, it clouded my vision and made me want to pound some […]

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