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A pandemic pool to rule them all. Photo by Denise Mickelsen

How I Put a Pandemic Pool in My Front Yard

One editor saved her summer (while endangering her marriage) with a kid-friendly above-ground oasis.

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In this series, called “The Pandemic Made Me Do It,” we ask our staffers, our freelance writers, and everyday Coloradans to tell us how—during what can sometimes feel like an inspiration-sucking global meltdown—they found the motivation and the tools to try something new, brush up on an old skill, or begin laying the groundwork for a long-term project. Have a pitch for a future story? Email submissions to spencer@5280.com

Procrastinator Profile
Name: Denise Mickelsen
Age: 44
Day job: Food editor, 5280
Says she wanted to: Install a pool in her front yard

The Backstory

By the morning after Memorial Day, I had had it. That particular Tuesday marked the 50th consecutive day of my working full-time from home under stay-at-home orders while attempting to keep my 10-year-old son, Sam, on track with fourth-grade remote learning. (I had probably sworn in front of Sam at least 150 times while trying to explain fractions.) I could see summer—all 91 COVID-y days of it—stretching out before me like an endless desert, all heat and monotony and whining and swearing. I wanted a pool. 

Sam loves to swim, you see, and since our neighborhood’s public pool—and camp—was off the schedule for summer 2020, I figured that a pool would keep Sam exercised, occupied, and as close to happy as possible. So what if our only yard is in the front (and pocket-sized)?

My husband, Bill, wanted nothing to do with it. In fact, he was about as close to telling me “no” as he’s come in our 17-year relationship. But as an essential worker in the construction industry, Bill had been leaving the house every morning. Without me. And so, visions of me working productively with Sam in sight through the window, splashing the summer away in the sparkling waters of our front-yard pool, haunted me. Reading that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had declared it safe to swim in chlorinated pools with others steeled my resolve. Sam could have friends over for pool-time!

I was buying a pool. 

Quarantine Made Me Do It

That Tuesday morning in May, as I finished exercising in our basement, I could hear Bill puttering about upstairs, getting ready to leave the house. I went straight to eBay, where the darling little Intex 10-foot prism frame premium pool set had been singing me its siren song for weeks. I bought that pool. And a cover. And a ladder. Did I tell Bill as he left for work? No. Why upset him? I’d tell him that night over dinner, after pouring him a glass of wine and complimenting the exquisite meal he’d made for our family. 

Not 15 minutes later, Bill called. Did I buy something on eBay? Because the credit card company texted him about fraudulent purchases. He’d alerted them that it wasn’t us who’d made them. “CALL THEM BACK!” I screamed. “IT’S THE POOL AND THERE ARE ALMOST NONE LEFT IN THAT SIZE AND IT WAS ME!”

Shit.

The good news: Bill verified the purchases and my Intex baby and accessories arrived a few days later. The bad news: Our credit card was cancelled. It took 10 days and two attempts before new cards arrived. And every time Bill had to update an automatic-pay account, he made sure I knew about it. 

The Install

The agreement was that after helping me install the pool, Bill wouldn’t have to lift another finger; I’d clean it and manage the chemicals and spend practically nothing on supplies, I promised. The water bill wouldn’t go up much either—a 10-foot-by-30-inch pool is pretty tiny, as pools go, and since we don’t water any grass that dares grow in our yard, we use very little extra water come summer. And the install would be a breeze.

But then there was the electrician we had to hire because a chlorinated pool with an electric filter requires an electrical outlet, which our front yard did not possess (and had not occurred to me). There were also the chemicals and other toys I needed, like a brush and a vacuum and a skimmer. Moreover, there was the fact that our yard is slanted. Quite slanted, it turns out. Which is why it took three attempts (one of which fell on Father’s Day) before Bill and I managed to properly level the site. It was sweaty, messy work. Bill had to go to Home Depot twice to get supplies for the electrician and, after two failed leveling attempts, a dirt rake. I broke out in an itchy, body-wide rash from shoveling and raking dirt mixed with pollen from our overactive linden tree.  

View of a happy swimmer. Photo by Denise Mickelsen

Told Him So

By the end of June, we had a functioning pool. Sam and his friends have indeed splashed most of Denver’s more than 65 90-plus-degree days away in the sparkling waters I so carefully maintain. I have blissfully floated there during happy hour, canned cocktail in hand, more times than I can count. In fact, caring for and soaking in that 10-foot body of water has soothed me more than anything else has since COVID-19 struck. These days, most of my swearing is reserved for the linden, which seems to never stop shedding into my beloved pool.

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