Thursday, July 18, 2013


I'd like to say I put this thing together myself, but if you know me at all you wouldn't believe me even if I actually did. Which to be clear I didn't.

No, I knew the project was well outside the scope of my meager skills as soon as the thing arrived and it took one of those little portable forklifts to get it off the truck that brought it to us.

Even the forklift was intimidated by this project. The operator got the blades under the pallet, got it raised, got it turned to an empty spot in the yard, and then dropped the load from about the height of the flatbed. "Oops," said the operator.

I told him if gravity was going to handle most of the job, we could have done the rest with a couple of crowbars and saved him and his fancy powerlifter a lot of trouble. A smart mouth is all I bring to this kind of work.

He drove away and I broke open the box to locate the assembly instructions. Soon to be a major motion picture, it runs to 48 pages of dense text and schematics, not counting the parts list. We called the multi-skilled Jerry, our go-to Home Improvement helper.

Sometimes here in the woods, where every real man has a crew-cab pickup truck and a leather tool belt, I feel abashed when I engage somebody else to do a household chore I might at one time at least have tried to do myself.

Not this time.

Jerry showed up last Saturday morning, examined the box and the documentation, and let out a soft sigh. He admitted later he wished at that moment he had told us he was too busy to do this. But now he was stuck, so he pulled out his cell and called for reinforcements.

The pants-on-fire manual said it should take two adults between six and 10 hours to turn the three cartons of lumber and hardware into a playground. They didn't even pre-drill the wood.

Jerry had three helpers for the first couple of hours. After that it was just him and another fellow, a former electrical contractor who now freelances as a home builder and driver of earth moving equipment.

Even between them and their buttload of power tools, they used up the whole 10 hours, and we still don't have the monkey bar extension and the handhold/footholds on the climbing wall.

But Elizabeth is already enchanted. When she gets up in the morning, the first thing she asks for is permission to go out for a swing and a quick slide in her PJs. Breakfast can wait. After playschool, she heads straight from the car to the sandbox. (Which we did manage to create ourselves. We hung the swings too!)

I wondered as I watched the two-tiered structure go up whether I was supposed to get a building permit, a zoning variance, file an environmental impact statement. Bringing in Jerry raised the all-in cost by 50 percent. There's not much left of our tiny yard.

But it was worth it. Even though all I did was hold my tongue when Pam placed the whopping order and write checks to make it happen, I'm enjoying a few moments of feeling like the world's greatest dad.

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