First It Was Toilet Paper, Now It’s Trampolines

Sunshine, bug spray, a socially distant picnic at a local creek. Memorial Day came and went, the unofficial start to summer.

I remember how, earlier this year, I began looking into assorted summer camps, trying to plot out a fun June, July and August for my two daughters. I had already registered them for a performing arts camp, and had made “notes to self” to sign them up for basketball camp and Vacation Bible School, too, once those registrations opened.

And what summer vacation would be complete without a beach trip? Stanton had prepaid for a beach house rental in a postcard-perfect oceanfront New England town, to coincide with Grace’s birthday in August.

“I can’t wait to turn nine at the beach,” Grace had said.

The ongoing pandemic, as you can imagine, has turned our summer plans upside down, and probably yours as well, friends.

The most disheartening update, for Stanton and me, was learning that our beach house reservation needed to be canceled. We’re grownups, so we can roll with the punches, but we hated disappointing the girls.

Grace amazed me by taking the news of the called-off birthday beach trip in stride. When I told her, Grace opened her eyes wide, in disbelief, then paused—considered—and said, “It’s OK. I’ll still have a good birthday.”

I almost cried as I bear-hugged Grace. I was so happy and thankful to hear her say this. Because life usually doesn’t unfold as we perfectly planned it to, does it? It takes a measure of maturity and perspective to power through the rainy days (and weeks, and months…), and it’s never too early to begin building up this inner strength.

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Just as Grace was determined to still have a good birthday, I was determined we’d still have a good summer. I kicked my currently-on-hold research skills into high gear and began Googling at-home summer-fun ideas. Gardening, sidewalk chalk, mud-pie-making…

“Can we get a trampoline, Mom?” the girls asked.

I hesitated to say yes. I worried about the girls’ getting hurt while bouncing around. Still, I looked into different trampolines, read other parents’ reviews as well as Consumer Reports. Finally, my eyes bleary one evening, I felt I had a good option for a trampoline. I’d sleep on it and make a final decision in the morning.

Rise and shine. I poured myself some coffee, clicked on the link to my trampoline, and…a new message appeared on my computer screen: “Product Not Available.”

What?

I refreshed the page, as if that would make a difference. It didn’t. Product still not available, two seconds later.

I clicked through trampoline links on other websites, and variations of the same message appeared everywhere. Currently unavailable. Temporarily out of stock. Arrives sometime between July 15 and October 31. 

Now, a few trampolines were available to sell and ship immediately, but these usually featured one-star ratings, price tags north of $1,000 and/or customer reviews that warned, “This is a scam website, DO NOT BUY.”

Grace’s jaw dropped. “First it was toilet paper, now it’s trampolines.”

I had to admit, that seemed to be true.

Anna crossed her arms. “When will this stinky coronavirus be over?” A million-dollar question.

I breathed in. Breathed out. “Girls, I promise, everything’s going to be OK.”

This time, Grace and Anna didn’t look so sure.

But if you say something enough times, maybe it will come true, right? 😉

…variations of the same message appeared everywhere. Currently unavailable. Temporarily out of stock…

Trampolines were out, at least for the time being. I began noodling over other ideas for backyard summer fun. Sandbox? Camping tent? Inflatable pool?

Why, yes…an inflatable pool sounded like a good idea. The word on the street was that local pools wouldn’t be opening this summer, or would be opening at reduced capacities on a first-come, first-served basis. I don’t have a talent for arriving first, or early, so having our own pool of sorts made sense.

Click, click, click. I did quick online searches at all the usual suspects: Amazon, Walmart, Target, Dick’s, Lowe’s.

“Mel…what are you doing?” Stanton wondered. I must have had an intent (or, crazed…) look about me.

“Finding a pool,” I said. “We have to get one right now, before they sell out. Summer fun is selling out, Stan.”

Stanton didn’t share my sense of urgency, but signaled his support.

About a week later, our pool arrived.

The girls cheered as the delivery man walked toward our front porch, a cardboard box under his arm. “That’s our pool!” they said.

He was an older gentleman, and he laughed. “That’s great,” he replied. “No more running through the sprinkler, right?”

The girls actually had been running through the sprinkler just a few days before, and I told him so. “You made our day, really,” I said.

“Good. Have fun, girls,” he said before he drove away.

Summer fun is selling out…

Now, setting up the pool…it was a process, friends. Of course it was a process.

First, Stanton had to level the backyard where we were putting the pool. We had decided on this particular spot because it gets direct sunlight from late morning until early evening, which would keep the water a comfortable temperature.

Then we had to lay out the new heavy-duty tarp I had also ordered online. Next step: Inflate the pool with the pump from the air mattress currently collecting dust in the basement.

Yours truly dug through the dust to find the pump. Check.

The girls clapped. “Woo-hoo, let’s fill it up!”

I dragged the hose across the driveway to the backyard, to the pool. At this point, Stanton’s and my T-shirts were drenched in sweat.

Then…a glitch.

In my haste in ordering the pool, I hadn’t read the entire product description. If I had, then I would have known the pool had a “max fill” line. The max fill line, friends, is about the midpoint of the pool.

I gazed at our new, half-full but max-filled inflatable pool. Was this even going to be fun?

“Mom!” The girls had thrown on their swimsuits hours earlier, and were now splashing around in the water. “This is the best, Mom!”

I collapsed in a chair. Thank God.

Of course it was a process.

Every afternoon this week, Grace and Anna have spent hours in the backyard, in the pool. It has been even nicer than what I imagined, back when I was furiously researching summer-fun ideas.

The girls keep calling for me to come in too. I keep calling back that I’m totally fine sitting nearby in the shade, doing what writing I can while reapplying sunscreen and dashing back into the house to fulfill snack requests. (“Do we have any more of that unicorn confetti ice cream, Mom?”)

The truth is, kids don’t really need that much in order to have a good time. We don’t need that much, in general. Having a good time isn’t always the point, anyway. Sometimes we simply have to do things, or get through things, out of responsibility, morality, humanity.

The other day, I noticed a batch of yellow flowers near the pool. Buttercups. I squatted down to get a better look, and smiled. I remembered, so clearly, seeing this same kind of flower (weed, technically) in backyards when I was growing up: my parents’, and my grandparents’.

I also remembered, as a child, rubbing the silky petals of those long-ago buttercups against my skin, watching to see if real butter would spread off. I believe I was standing beside my Grandma then, but I don’t know for sure.

I remember my grandparents’ backyard: the buttercups, the freestanding wooden swing they had in the shade, Poppy’s tomato plants on stakes alongside the garage.

What I would give for one more walk with my Poppy from the back porch steps to his tomato plants, or to sit beside my Grandma in her nursing home today.

And of all the things in the world we could talk about—from the stories that make global headlines to the big questions philosophers have been considering for generations—I know all we would talk about would be our family, probably Grace and Anna most of all. That would be all, and that would be everything.

Currently, we do not have a trampoline. We do, however, have toilet paper. We also have a half-full, though max-filled, inflatable pool. We have good days, and bad days too.

We have one another, and we’re going to have a good summer no matter what.

I hope you do too, friends. ❤

(P.S. Thank you, Grace, for the blog post title, and for being the inspiration for the whole post. I love you.)

Photo credit: Pixabay

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When You Have the Choice to Laugh or Cry

Summer is freeze pops, sunscreen and swimming. Lots and lots of swimming.

Grace, Anna and I were at the pool. My older daughter was swimming—actually swimming. My younger daughter, meanwhile, was alternating between adjusting her goggles, blowing bubbles and throwing a plastic ring for Grace to “fetch”—the myriad activities that little kids engage in when they’re in the water. Then Anna grabbed my arms and began bouncing up and down on my thighs.

“Mom!” Up and down, up and down. “You’re a trampoline!”

“No.” It was one of those moments when you could laugh or cry—it could go either way, equally. “I’m not.” Moms everywhere understand: I’m a person. A person.

Not long after, Anna overheard me tell another mom that I appreciated that my new swimsuit had adjustable straps. Minutes later, I felt the metal hooks on the adjustable straps zoom down.

“Anna!” I stopped my upper body from tumbling out of my swimsuit, as Anna continued to tug on the hooks. “Stop, honey.”

“But Mom, you have adjustable straps.” Anna smiled. “They’re fun.”

Laugh or cry…laugh or cry.

Speaking of my new swimsuit: I ordered it online. When it arrived in the mail, and I tried it on…well, let’s just say I wasn’t #twinning with the model from the website. I peered in the mirror.

Huh.

“Ooh, you got a new bathing suit, Mom!” As always, the girls were nearby.

“Mm-hmm. What do you think, girls?”

There was a pause.

“It’s OK if you don’t like it,” I assured them.

“I like the bathing suit,” one daughter (I won’t say who) said. “But I think it’s for someone who isn’t a little fat.”

Ouch.

“Yeah,” the other daughter (also anonymous in this story) agreed. “It’s just that, you look like you have a baby in your belly.”

Laugh or cry, laugh or cry…

“But you don’t! We know you don’t, Mom. You just look like that.”

I mean, whew. I just look pregnant in my new swimsuit.

“Mom.” Concerned, Grace hugged me. “I love you.”

Anna threw her arms around both of us. “I love you too, Mom. And I love your big, soft belly.”

We group hugged.

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The truth is—actually, there are two truths here. The first is, I do have belly fat. I gave birth to two children, am getting older and do zero (and I do mean zero) lower-ab exercises.

Stanton and I also just got into “The Wire” (15+ years later), and I’ve been spending many an evening beside him on our couch, engrossed in the show and munching on a bowl of raw Brazil nuts.

Just kidding, friends. You know I’ve got Cheetos or Doritos in that bowl.

😉

So I accept my body, as is. Could it be toned? Yes. Should I curb my late-night junk-food habit? Definitely…sometime soon.

Am I, overall, healthy? And happy? Thankfully, the answer to both those questions is also “yes.”

The second truth is, I’m glad my daughters were honest with me. Children usually are honest—brutally honest, one might say. Ask any parent, aunt, uncle, teacher, babysitter, and they’d probably all agree: honest, to a fault.

As we grow up, we learn to temper our honesty with tact, diplomacy. I’ve worked in communications for years now, and I understand why finesse matters, in both professional and personal relationships. I get it.

I get it, and after our group hug, I told the girls they can always be honest with me. Even if they think the truth might hurt my feelings. I’d rather my daughters not be diplomats with me. I’m their mom. I want them to know they can tell me anything, talk with me about anything.

They do now. And I hope they always do.

I’d rather my daughters not be diplomats with me. I’m their mom.

Stanton, the girls and I recently went to the beach. All four of us had been looking forward to our family vacation, but Grace and Anna especially. And we did have a wonderful time—jumping waves, building sand castles, visiting a nature center on a rainy day.

Our last day there, I was swimming in the deep-blue water of Long Island Sound. Stanton and the girls were on the beach. It was late morning in Madison, Conn., and we were some of just the handful of tourists and locals there. The water glided over my shoulders, and when I looked ahead, I could see for miles—the open sea, endless. Since time began, human beings have been drawn to water.

“What was your favorite part of our vacation?” I asked the girls, once I came ashore.

Grace and Anna had been digging in the sand. Grace paused, considered the question. “Breakfast,” she decided.

I grabbed a towel. “Breakfast?”

“I loved breakfast at the hotel,” Grace said. “Especially the waffles.”

Stanton and I looked at each other. “Honey, we make waffles at home. What about the beach, the sand castles…”

Grace shook her head. No, definitely the hotel waffles. “That was my favorite part.”

“Me too,” Anna seconded.

Well, what do you know—the hotel waffles. (Laugh or cry?) “That’s great, girls.”

“That was my favorite part.”

Every blue moon, Stanton and I get a chance to go on a date, just the two of us. So we were out, sharing Irish nachos, drinking Shiner Bock draft (him) and red sangria (me). We’ve been each other’s date for 17 years now, and still enjoy each other’s company, which I’m deeply grateful for.

That being said…17 years is a haul. People know each other well by that point. So when, soon after our entrées arrived, Stanton said he was full and ready to head out whenever I was…I knew he wasn’t telling the whole truth.

“Honey.” I narrowed my eyes at him. “You want to take off your pants, right?” (This is all G-rated, friends: I promise.) When my better half comes home at the end of the day, he immediately changes out of his dress pants into a pair of athletic shorts.

Stanton smiled. “Right.”

“Do you ever even wash those shorts?” I wondered.

“That’s the wrong question.”

I nodded, understanding. “How often do you wash them?”

Stanton nodded back. “Bingo.”

Sigh. Not often.

Laugh or cry?

We both laughed.

Life is short. Despite its imperfections, life is beautiful too. The people we get to share it with are gifts.

That’s why, when I have the choice to laugh or cry…all things considered, I usually lean toward laughter.

“I just got one last thing: I urge all of you, all of you, to enjoy your life, the precious moments you have. To spend each day with some laughter and some thought, to get your emotions going.” —Jim Valvano, 1993 ESPY speech

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short story, “Backtrack.” An engaging read that’s can’t-put-it-down good.