Bathing suits have been on my mind as a blog topic ever since last November, when writer KB Inglee ended a long post on the Guppies e-list about the New England Crime Bake conference, how much she learned, and how the scheduled events were so much fun that, she wrote, “Next year I am not bothering to take my bathing suit.” The reason this leaped out at me is that I learned at my mother’s knee always to take my bathing suit.
Yep, among the pearls of wisdom (“Everything I need to know”) I learned from my mother was that winter or summer, rain or shine, you never know when you might need it to take the perfect unexpected swim. She wasn’t talking about just hotel pools. In my mother’s hierarchy of needs, a lake was better than a pool, a bay was better than a lake, and the ocean trumped everything. As far as I know, she never joined the Polar Bear Club at Coney Island (though she did grow up in Brooklyn), but even at the age of 95 she was still stroking away, her white rubber bathing cap bobbing. She needed a cane to get in and a helping hand to get out by that time, but she wouldn’t have missed her swim for anything.
I remember seeking out the pool when I arrived early at my very first professional conference (on women and alcoholism in the late 1980s, long before I started writing mysteries) and making two friends there, women who were also conference presenters, hours before the opening ceremonies. Conferences can be intense, and even when I’m too wrung out for the exertion of a swim, I can unwind in the Jacuzzi—for which a suit is also necessary in a very public hotel.
My favorite pool in the world is a huge, spring-fed pool at what is now called the Weis Ecology Center in Ringwood, New Jersey. It’s known as the Highlands Pool and is open to the public,
A memorable hotel pool is one at which I spent many hours hanging out at the Hôtel Ivoire in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Sixties. (There are gorgeous, palm-fringed beaches on the Ivoirien coast, but the ocean is too treacherous to consider swimming in.) I took my husband back there to visit in 1986, and they’d not only expanded the hotel but added a wraparound pool that allowed swimmers to circle the hotel’s two towers amid the tropical foliage.
Côte d’Ivoire, which has suffered two civil wars in the past ten years, is no longer a paradise for tourists. But if I ever happened to get back there, would I make sure to take a bathing suit? You bet I would. You never know.