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    Janice Shapiro

    41. 1966

    By Janice Shapiro

    It was the summer of the dead nurses and that sniper in Texas and we were not allowed to walk on my grandparents’ lawn because of the frogs. I was nine years old, growing up in the San Fernando Valley, a place not unlike my grandparents’ yard, homelands for populations that had for various reasons exploded. In the Valley’s case, it was with millions of children, the famous baby boom generation; and in my grandparents’ yard, billions of tiny amphibians, refugees of that concrete eyesore known as the Los Angeles River.

    Our neighborhood in North Hollywood was flat and heavy with trees. In the summer the air got dry and hot and dirty, and everywhere—in the leaves, on the driveways, and in our hair—was the faint smell of chlorine from all of our neighbors’ pools. We didn’t have a pool. It was one of those things my sister Evelyn and I would occasionally beg our father for, but he always said the same thing: “We don’t need a pool. We have the Houstons.”

    The Houstons were our next-door neighbors and extremely generous with their swimming pool. We could use it whenever we wanted. Still, it wasn’t the same as having our own. We knew this. Our parents knew this. The difference was we cared, my sister and I. Our parents didn’t. But then one night that summer, the summer of 1966, when our father seemed to be in a particularly bad mood, quieter and less connected than usual, we asked if we could please, please, please put a swimming pool in our backyard and he stunned us by saying, “We’ll see.” . . . Read More.

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