Saturday, August 14, 2010

Summer swingin'

"Maybe I can use a rope and a hammer," my husband says.

And with those words began a summer evening's odyssey to acquire a rope swing—the dilemma being how to swing a rope over a tree branch. It's not a new issue around here. My husband once used a fishing pole to swing a rope over a dead tree branch that needed to come down.

I laugh out loud and say, "I hope you're kidding." The drooling, chubby 3-month-old standing on my lap thinks it's pretty funny, too.

Then I see my husband gingerly reach over the fence to the potting bench and say, "Ah, there's my hammer."

My eyebrows rise as I hear him mumble, "Maybe I can do this before the kids wander over here."

"Kids, stay away from your dad. He's got a hammer and a rope," I call from the back porch.

Too late. Two naked little kids began to wander over, and, why not? Their father's dragging a rope through the backyard and he's holding a hammer. Finally, he settles on a football around which he ties the rope and swings it over the branch while standing on the ladder. As always, I make sure the phone is nearby. Just in case, you know.

"Jim, aren't you afraid the kids will hit the tree when they swing?"



The kids swung, supervised and assisted, on the swing for a few minutes before Jim took it down to rethink the process.

Little kids make strong associations very early on. I remember when my nephew was small he picked up a paper clip and sought out Nana, who is a school teacher, to give it to her. I wonder what our kids are going to remember most about their dad. Will they forever associate hot glue guns, ladders and drills with their father, who can't seem to go a day without using one of these items?

Already our son thinks of his father as the fix it guy. Whenever something breaks while dad is at work, he tells me "Daddy needs to come home." It's dad who restores life to toys with new batteries or hot glue. It's dad who fixes shoes (sometimes while still on the children) with a hot glue gun. It's dad who makes a bridge from scrap wood at the mere suggestion that the ditch in our backyard is a river. It's dad who makes monkey bars and a trapeze for our playground from materials around the shed. It's dad who uses a drill almost daily. It's dad whose ears perk up whenever a neighbor fires up a power tool.

He's always thinking, this guy. When we first moved in to our house six years ago, he often had a look on his face that I couldn't decipher. We had just gotten married a year earlier, so I was still learning about his faces and noises and all. I'd ask him "What are you thinking about?" He'd answer, almost every time, "How to move the shed." Eventually, he took the entire shed apart, piece by piece, and later rebuilt it in a new location. (In the process, he took a rusty nail in the arm. I wasn't even there to call 911. I was at work. He drove himself to the Urgent Care for wound dressing and a tetanus shot.)

They can learn a lot from a guy like that. What I hope they learn most from him is ingenuity and confidence in their ability to figure things out—and to not use a hammer tied to the end of a rope as a propellant.

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