Column: Lessons learned from a backyard

It’s pink with a pool decorated by pretty princesses. Perfect. I always imagined fashioning a slip ‘n’ slide from a blue tarp and backyard irrigation hose, but my better half—seeking relief for the kids from the scorching sun—beat me to it with a ready-made version.

Sliding across a lawn known more for its weeds than fluffy grass, with only a water-filled sheet of plastic providing cushion, seems like a guaranteed trip to the hospital. But kids, well, they’re tougher.

On went the water. The shrieks and squeals came quickly. So did relief from the midsummer heat.

The slip ‘n’ slide experience—my first, at least to witness, in decades—is providing some backyard enlightenment this season.

Yes, kids can withstand sliding down a sheet full of lumps courtesy of tree-like dandelions, but they also have imaginations so many of us adults have tucked away.

The slip ‘n’ slide? It quickly turned into a glorious fountain. An airport runway. A tent.

We also have lawn darts. Except today’s sets have more soft plastic than pointed metal and a friendlier name of Jarts. The game hasn’t really taken off yet, but the target rings are imagined as popular islands, or lily pads. I can’t remember.

Badminton, croquet, even baseball, have all been hijacked by made-up rules. And in case an adult might be winning, those rules are subject to change.

Then there’s the cardboard box. Kids are keen to remind us of how fun corrugated paper can be. Some time ago an oversized box that housed our backyard shed became a playhouse for a week or so—until the rain got to it.

Now there’s a box inside the house. It’s big. I almost had it at the curb before my eldest daughter informed me she wants to keep it forever. Her word.

The indoor box-turned-ice-cream-shop is still in the house, but I’ve managed to come to terms with her on recycling a “car”—a smaller crayon-coloured box.

Packaging for the slip ‘n’ slide was much smaller, and it disappeared quickly. So too might the slide. A geyser of a hole has already appeared in the Saran-wrap-like sprinkler system.

When it breaks beyond repair, I know I’ll face resistance to placing it to the curb. All the pink plastic possibilities will undoubtedly put a young imagination into overdrive.

I’ll wait to hear the ideas, but I imagine I could be convinced.

Matthew Hoekstra is a reporter with The Richmond Review.

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