It was 2002 when the pickup truck hauling a flatbed trailer rolled down our street, stopped at our brand-new-to-the-world house and carefully reversed down the side into the backyard. There was no landscaping yet — no Rose of Sharon hedge, no arborvitae screen, no butterfly garden, but the cargo on that flatbed trailer was more special than all of that.
It was a large, wooden playset for our two young children.
Bekah was 5, Luke was 3 and until we had moved to this house, the only time they had ever swung on swings or slid down slides was at a park in our old neighborhood. They didn’t care about re-sale value, good schools or square footage — all they wished for was a playset of their very own.
While we were still tackling Mount St. Moving Box, their grandparents granted their wish. The kids’ response was about what you would expect: excited squeals of delight and laughter that can only be generated by kids who were surprised by getting the one thing they were looking forward to the most.
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After bath time that evening I heard another not-so-happy scream from the kitchen. Both kids were banging their hands on the back, kitchen window screaming, “NOOOOOO!” I saw what was going on and ran out to meet two neighbor kids playing on the swings.
“It’s OK,” they said. “Our mom said we could play in this park.”
Years went by, our kids learned to share, and their playset became one of many on the neighborhood kids’ play route. One day I was walking past the back kitchen window and caught a 7-year-old with his bike at the top of the curvy, yellow slide. I told him no, but he smiled at me and rode down anyway.
While our kids played on the swingset, I put in a Rose of Sharon hedge, several arborvitaes as a privacy screen and a butterfly garden. When their little brother, who was born years after the swingset appeared, was old enough, the older kids taught him how to pump the swing, climb the ropes, hang on the rings, walk up the slide…we used it a lot.
Until we didn’t.
What to do with a swingset whose sole purpose was now as competition for 12-year-olds to see who could flip the swings and rings over the top bar the most times?
What to do with an old swingset that probably wouldn’t survive digging it up and transporting it to another yard?
For years I watched and waited until finally I acknowledged that the swings and rings had been flipped over the top bar for the last time.
This time it wasn’t a surprise. One day my father-in-law and I removed the old ropes, swings and rings and I sent a honeysuckle vine climbing over the top bar. We gave the curvy, yellow slide to the first person who responded to a Facebook Swap and Shop post. By evening the playset, where years of excited squeals of delight and laughter now rang only in my memory, was rejuvenated with a grown-up porch swing.
I had visions of my book-loving daughter using it as a reading spot; my older son and his girlfriend gently swaying to create a gentle breeze.
But that evening I looked out the back, kitchen window, threw my hands up and screamed, “NOOOO!”
I raced outside to find every 12-year-old boy in the neighborhood in our yard. Two of them were on the porch swing and another was behind it, raising it as high as his head in preparation for a swing push of epic proportions and velocity.
I guess that old swingset still has some surprises in store for us.
Susan Vollenweider lives in the Northland. To listen to the women’s history podcast that she co-hosts or to read more of her writing visit www.thehistorychicks.com or www.susanvollenweider.com