I am a firm believer in the "Death Comes in Threes" adage, not only for celebrities but also for children's toys. It happened again recently.
First to expire was the backyard plastic pool. Nobody could say it didn't have a long, happy life. From its birth in 1998 when my oldest child turned 1, until 2007 when my second daughter mastered freestyle just enough to swim at the park district pool, it was the highlight of summer. Fill it up with a hose and in minutes it provided refreshment for as many as four squealing kids. I sometimes used it to cool off after a particularly rigorous lawn-mowing session. Sure, my legs protruded over the edges, but who cared? It's hard to be uncomfortable when your children howl in delight as they dump buckets of water on your head.
For the past five years, the pool remained in our basement on life-support systems. My wife and I knew we were done having children, yet we couldn't bear to permanently drain it, so to speak. Maybe we could find a neighborhood toddler to invite over on a scorching afternoon. But where are those little tykes? All the kids in our neighborhood are now interested in cars, makeup and members of the opposite sex. This past week, I faced the inevitable and dragged the now-moldy aqua oval to the curb. I said a silent prayer, thanking it for all the happiness it had provided.
While I grieved, death struck again. This time the victim had a name and it was Barbie.
My youngest, during her annual room-cleaning ritual, announced she no longer played with her collection of dolls that ranged from the original, perfectly normal-looking Barbie to the punk-rock Barbie with multicolored hair and a rebellious sneer.
"But what will happen when your friends come over this summer? Don't you want to dress them up and have them talk to each other?" I asked. "What will you do instead?"
She briefly glanced up from her video game, giving me the answer in the process.
Now I had to once again huddle with my wife and make a decision. Gently place the Barbies alongside the pool and wait for the trash collector or hope for a miracle cure via a garage sale or
Death paid its third visit last weekend, when I attempted to inflate the water slide purchased at
When fully inflated, the slide rose more than 15 feet into the air, sending water cascading over the sides and soaking the lawn in the process. It weighed nearly 100 pounds and caused my back to scream as I unfurled it in the yard - but once inflated, it provided hours of entertainment. Not once did I sense it would succumb to the "We're too old for this thing" fate.
This year, the ritual began anew. I lugged the slide up from the basement, hosed off the spider webs, secured it with eight (yes, eight) stakes and flipped the air pump's power switch. The slide began to rise.
That's when I noticed the impending signs of death.
The slide ascended to about 11 feet and then tried in vain to go higher. It gasped, attempting to hold more air, but it was no use. It stayed three-quarters high, unable to accommodate two girls already in their bathing suits and watching silently. Finally one spoke.
"What's wrong with it?"
"I think there may be a hole somewhere," I said.
Closer inspection revealed that there were actually many holes. A disease called "overuse by growing (and weightier) kids" had infected the slide's innards. Patches would do no good.
"I can go buy another one and be back in half an hour," I told my daughters.
They looked at each other, making a silent sisterly decision.
"That's OK. I think we've outgrown it," my oldest said.
And with that they went inside, changed out of their bathing suits and called friends. I was left sitting in the backyard on the swing set. It was 14 years old and starting to creak. It also represented the last reminder of childhoods that disappeared far too fast.
I gazed at the wooden structure and spoke.
"Stay a little longer. Please?"
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