I’d seen pictures of them in the newspaper, seen them in other people’s yards, on TV, in magazines. But, I never really thought we’d actually get one – they were so fancy and expensive. However, it didn’t take long to realize we just had to have one. Our yard had plenty of room, and the rust bucket of a swing set we acquired upon buying the house was toast. Our kids – ages 6, 4 and 2 – were aged just right for us to get a decent return on our investment. It was a bit beyond our budget but my husband was all in.
After finding the best coupon I could get my hands on, we labored over the configuration. How many swings? Tire? Seesaw? Slide? Oh my! The options were plentiful. We finally chose our custom design (with all that and more) and ordered our Creative Plaything swing set, installation included.
He arrived on a sunny spring morning. Handsome, rugged, and retired from the military, the installer found this line of work and looked no further. He made his own hours, whistled as he worked alone, and was happy as a clam. With his trusty hand truck he hauled at least a dozen boxes into our backyard, placing them just so around the build site. He set up his workstation, fired up his boom box playing classic rock, and got to work.
He declined my offers of coffee, water, lunch and lemonade, as his Igloo cooler held all he needed. It took him a few hours but he built probably the sturdiest swing set ever. I wish I’d have filmed a time lapse of him measuring, laying out, screwing in, tightening, double-checking, triple-checking his work. Efficient and methodical, he left his work site cleaner than it was when he began.
Just like that, we had a brand-new Creative Plaything! The cedar smelled sweet, the chain links sparkled in the sun, the tire swing begged for a rider. My ducklings happily obliged.
For more than a decade, that swing set was a fixture in our backyard. Standing tall and solid, it’s the anchor in so many photographs taken out there, looking like a native in front of the juniper and pines. Along with our minivan and Little Tykes Cozy Coupe, it sealed our fate as suburbanites. I did wince at the minivan, but I loved our swing set, as did the children.
From jumping off the swings and flying across the monkey bars to sliding down the fire pole, scaling the rock wall and walking across the high beam, the children learned balance, coordination, problem solving and overcoming fears. Pretty good lessons from a pile of lumber. They discovered firsthand (with the attendant shrieking) what a thriving bee hive looks like, and they learned the faded canopy means the sun-weakened canvas can’t hold a 10-year-old on it anymore (a lesson learned that the hard way – ouch). It came in handy measuring snowfall, too, after which they’d all race to be the first to slide down the fresh drifts. Through years of birthday parties, cookouts, play dates, pot lucks, hanging outs, teen scenes and more, kids of all ages always found a seat on it somewhere, and it provided great props for teen selfies, videos and photo shoots galore.
Alas, all good things must come to an end, and so it was for our swing set last week. The cedar had begun to crack and splinter; the bolts and nuts would no longer tighten; the green canvas canopy tore for the last time. After a surprisingly long dismantling session requiring major elbow grease, we carried it out for bulk pickup at the curb. Yes, an unceremonious ending to a good life of fine service, but it lives on in so many family pictures and memories. And I did manage to keep a few pieces to toss into a celebratory memorial blaze in our fire pit.
We’re a little sad to see it go, yet happy to regain a chunk of our backyard. Turns out the swing set is just the most recent element to mark the passage of time in the great mystery of raising children. Like most of these phases, we loved every minute while it lasted, but it’s time to move on and we look forward to the next. We do still have the trampoline, though, with strict orders that it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Thank goodness.
Susan Fleischman lives in Alexandria, VA, with her husband, three teens, and the family dog. She’s an editor and copy writer, and loves cooking, photography and tennis. Her blog is backtodeuce.wordpress.com