We have a cedar climber at the back of the yard that used to get played on hard. We researched the best ones, ordered it in pieces, and spent a weekend building it with some friends when our first daughter was two and couldn’t even really use it yet. I hung an infant swing from a yardarm for her newborn sister to safely sway while I spent hours pushing her as she clutched tight to the pegs on the horse-swing. It was quite a few years before she learned to pump her legs on the regular sling swings, and the day she did was something of a celebration for me. Though I had two more children to get to that point, the independence it gave both of us was sweet.
All three girls found parts of the structure that were their favorites, though different sections were prime in different phases of their childhood. We had a toddler’s bouncy horse we left outside near the structure that used to get fed a mixture of mud and grass after the kids got too heavy to safely ride it. The pirate look-out off the one end let the girls watch for any hazards or threats. There were kitchen toys in the bottom section of the gazebo that were really meant to be inside items but just worked much better out there, growing faded with use and sunlight. The interior maze of the slide side of the climber got too hard to negotiate as they got too large for the bends and turns, so they just went up the outside of the tower like monkeys to get to the top of the slide.
They aged out one by one, as other pursuits became more important. The slide tower is now a spider’s paradise, the gazebo tower leans a little to the east, and these days all three girls could reach up and touch the swing ladder without having to stretch much. It’s time for it to go, before we fill the yard with well-wishers and relatives and neighbors celebrating that former two-year-old’s completion of high school. On the one hand, it will be nice to get our yard back and make it a little more adult and clear; perhaps I’ll get a grown-up gazebo out of the deal. On the other hand, I am a bit sad to contemplate looking out there and not seeing it. It has been a part of the view for a long time, and it’s disappearance will be a concrete admission that our girls have grown up.
The older girls don’t seem to have a problem with helping us dismantle it and move it to the trash, little by little, but the youngest girl is closer to having used it. She is more reluctant to see it go away so we may have to save the blue canvas-topped gazebo tower, move it back into the ivy out of the glare of the neighbor’s houses, and refurbish it into a pre-teen reading retreat.
That’s not a bad compromise. Maybe if I don’t get my grown-up version she’ll let me join her every so often this summer. I’ll bring my own pillow.