Friday, April 2, 2010

Spring Break & Broken Springs

Over the last few weeks, in stages, I’ve been cleaning up my garage. This involved clearing out the old refrigerator and stocking it with beer, pop, and water. It included shifting around the numerous items that made their way out there for storage so that I could unfold the ping pong table.

Now my kids are on spring break, the weather has been beautiful and my wife and I were both off yesterday. All of this combined to make the conditions perfect for a celebratory spring barbeque.

It’s a great feeling, being outside and enjoying the weather for the first time in an official, party-related capacity. A nice breeze blowing. Watching my sons alternate between shoving Doritos into their faces and jumping on the newly assembled trampoline. Wondering which would be the first to develop a stomach ache. A regular Norman Rockwell portrait of the American dream, complete with yours truly at the helm. Replace helm with grill.

My grilling technique requires constant attention to the positioning of the various meat products placed on the grill, pounds at a time. Thus, I end up with a lot of charcoal smoke blown directly into my face. It seems that even when I try to use the breeze to my advantage and stay upwind the smoke finds a way to attack my eyes. It obviously enjoys making me cry. I try to offset this smoke inhalation by consuming as many cold beers as possible while manning the grill. I really think this works. It must be a kind of smoke repellent, because after a while, the smoke doesn’t seem to bother me any longer.

I find that as a successful barbeque progresses, there must always be a childhood presence. To start with, it’s the kids. Eventually, though, the real kids get tired, crash and head in to bed. The adults then replace them. You can tell they sat, watching the kids bounce on the trampoline, waiting for an appropriate time to try it themselves. I use the words they and them as if I was not also a culprit in this attempted cheating of age.

I hadn’t bounced on a big trampoline for about twenty years. Sure I’ve been known to narrowly climb my way through the undersized entryway of the occasional inflatable bouncy house, but the sensation isn’t quite the same. You get nowhere near the amount of air in a bouncy house as you do from a trampoline. Nor does a bouncy house require as much physical strain.

As an adult, especially one who has just consumed a number of frosty beverages, you don’t realize this until the next day. When you wake up, you have unexplained soreness in muscles you didn’t remember even having the night before. You notice joints are a bit harder to move and more swollen than they usually are. You keep hearing a clicking sound following you around the house and it occurs to you after some time it’s your knees or ankles.

However, in the moment, that doesn’t matter. All that matters is the exhilaration you feel from the recurring momentary weightlessness. All you care about is whether or not you can still go from feet to knees to feet. Then, since that wasn’t as hard as you thought, you challenge yourself to go down to your butt and back to your feet. While this proves to be much harder, pulling it off seems important and you lose yourself in being a kid again.

Of course, every now and then, you get the brave soul who decides to do the full midair flip. That’s the moment when everybody watching stops being a kid for a moment and becomes a parent as they say a silent prayer that the jumper won’t break their neck. But, once they pull it off, the roars of celebration erupt through the backyard and the childhood revelry returns to us all again.

In these moments, it really is spring for everybody. Who cares how you feel the next morning. Who cares about remembering what the suggested weight capacity of the trampoline or the scooter or the kinetic motion car is. It is a time for renewal and for feeling reborn.

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