The three sisters and their mother, Jewel, entered the gate and sat next to the closed pool. It was about midnight on a hot June night and the country club had been closed for two hours. Juju’s mother worked at the country club three days a week making salads and other side dishes for the daily buffet. It was her mother’s way of helping her aging and not so healthy father, the chef at the club.
Jewel had a second job during the day at Bell Helicopter in Hurst, Juju’s hometown. At Bell Jewel prepared and served a daily lunch buffet as well, only there, to employees of the worldwide helicopter company. Jewel had taken the Bell job when Juju entered fifth-grade as a way to supplement the family income. Jewel had worked hard her entire life, raising seven children, odd jobs and this, the summer of her fifty-second year, was no different.
Jewel had worked at both locations that Friday night in 1973 and she was hot and tired..tired to the bone. Sitting there, gazing at the pool, she suddenly got to her feet and started to disrobe! “Mother! What are you doing!!??” asked Joyce. I think that water looks damn good, Jewel responded, it looks like an invitation to go skinny-dipping! Juju started laughing as she watched her mother strip!
Two of Juju’s older sisters, Joan and Joyce, had come down to the club on the premise of a late night swim, but not a skinny dip! It was daring enough for them to swim after the pool had closed…daring for Jewel meant no swimsuit. One spotlight illuminated the front of the clubhouse and another at the rear. There was sparse light flickering off the water as Juju jumped off the diving board in all her glory!
The older girls, giggling and nervously chatting followed their mother’s lead and all four were soon cool and relaxed on a long ago Texas night. Jewel regaled her daughters with stories about skinny-dipping while growing up in Fort Worth during the Great Depression. Cheap entertainment she said, who could afford a swimsuit back then?
Juju wondered aloud if they could get in trouble for what they were doing? No said Jewel, she had gotten permission to swim after hours from the club general manager. “Did you neglect to tell her we would be naked??” Joan inquired. Everything they said that night was met with laughter…everything is funnier when you are staring at three naked women. Maybe we shouldn’t call this a skinny-dip Juju said, I don’t see anyone close to skinny here!
Juju watched her mother and couldn’t believe what she was witnessing! The woman who usually got her cardio chasing her around the house with a fly swatter was doing laps in the pool and mooning her!
Friday nights at the club were “all you can eat” shrimp peel night. Juju and her family loved Friday nights because her father would come home with the leftovers! Newspaper would be put all over the kitchen table and a big white tub of shrimp would be dumped out in the middle.
The night had started with a shrimp feast and now was ending with Juju seeing another side of her mother…a goofy, care-free side. Juju marked the moment in her memory. She floated under the diving board and watched her mother and sisters giggle into the night. Even at twelve, Juju knew that certain events tend to stick with you a long time….this was one of those times.
“You are trespassing!! I am calling the police!” said the man’s voice. Juju, startled and scared…nowhere to run…saw a man’s shadow walking from the back door of the club. As the man got closer, Jewel recognized him as Emmet, the dishwasher. The four not-so skinny dippers swam hastily to the front edge of the pool and pulled themselves in tight! “Hey there Emmet, it’s Jewel! I have some of my kids here swimming, everything is okay!” An exchange of pleasantries took place, and Emmet was heading home. Jewel, not seeing any cars in the parking lot, had thought they were safe from discovery, but had forgotten Emmet always had his wife pick him up. More laughter bounced down the hills of the golf course as Emmet got into his ride. Poor, old Emmet was never the wiser, never knowing how close he had come to seeing four sets of Billhymer…shall we say…flotation devices.
The girls, having enough, exited the pool to get dressed. Juju looked back and watched Jewel enjoy herself a few minutes more swimming back and forth alone in the pool. The next day Jewel would be the salad lady again, making sure the club women had the best produce in town available to them. She would walk past the pool on her way to the back door kitchen entrance, carrying only a secret.
Juju worked the snack bar the next day and sat there staring out the window at the packed pool. On that particular day she was not envious of the club kids and their leisurely fun. The crowd before her disappeared and all Juju could see was her mother. There was Jewel throwing her bra over her left shoulder and running butt-naked into the water. Not many people have a memory of their mother like that, Juju thought. From that day on, the moonlight swims her mother suggested took on a whole other meaning.