August 10, 2020

24 years in, having survived the swing set disaster of our 10th

Twenty-four years ago today I married one of my brother, Pat's, best friends.  Now he's my best friend.

Coach is my unpaid therapist, my biggest cheerleader, and the best teammate anyone could ask for.  
Me:  I can see into our future.  I 
will test you on the regular, but I
 hope that you will stick with me - please
forgive the swing set situation.

I recently drove past our first house.  We moved into that 4 bedroom colonial straight from the one bedroom condo that I bought a year after college.  The condo was walking distance to the colonial.  Coach was a full time student, getting his masters in physical therapy and he moved into my condo after we got married.  What were the chances that my condo was 20 minutes from the school Coach was accepted to for PT?  

Lad was born less than 2 years later while we lived in the condo.  He slept in the dining area.  We ate meals at a card table crammed near his crib.  I used to joke that Lad would be like Pavlov's dogs - salivating when drowsy since he was practically sleeping in the little galley kitchen.  

When I drove past the colonial, I had Ed and his good friend, Conrad, in the car.  Conrad remembered our swing set (these two have been friends since kindergarten, but didn't see each other for most of grade school because they went to different schools, then reconnected in high school).  Of course he had no idea the story behind the swing set.  I shared it with Ed and Conrad and since it happened on our anniversary, I feel like today is the perfect time to share it with you. 

I believe is was August 10, 2006.  Our 10th anniversary.  Reg was 10 months old.  Curly was just a twinkle in my eye.  I think Coach and I were scheduled to go downtown that night.  Maybe we had a hotel for the night?  My mother in law might have been coming to stay with the kids.  That part is fuzzy.  Even the novelty of a hotel room could not overshadow the earlier events of the day.  Memories . . . 

My mom came over in the morning.  I had to be up at the Catholic grade school to pay our fees, buy uniforms, fill out forms, etc.  My mom had agreed to stay with the kids so I could get in and out without a full production.  

Earlier that spring, a family I babysat for since 7th grade had offered us their swing set.  It was a commercial set.  The stuff parks are made of.  Ginormous.  They had 8 kids.  It was a great gift, but we just had to figure out how we would get it out of the ground at their house and set up in our yard.  An avid garage sale shopper, always ready to embrace a deal, I thought of the logistics as minor details.  Big whoop.  We can figure it out.  Coach was less excited.  He hated to devote a big chunk of our backyard to this monstrosity.  

I was like, "but we are never going to move - the kids are young, they will play with it for years."  

We never intended to move.  The colonial was about 30 years old when we bought it.  We replaced all the windows first.  Then the siding.  The roof.  Coach re-did the bathrooms.  Tiled the foyer floor.  Finished the basement.  We were always saving for the next project.  Our cement driveway was a mess.  Cracked and tilted.  Downright dangerous.  

Earlier that summer we got a flier saying that the city was repaving the streets in our neighborhood.  The cement place would offer residents a discounted price to pour new cement driveways for anyone interested.  We were interested, but no one could ever give us a quote.  

I arranged to meet a guy named Gary over at the house where the swing set lived.  Gary is a builder from Ireland.  A friend of Pat's through Irish music.  He checked out the swing set and in his Irish brogue, agreed to yank it up and haul it over to my house, and set it up.  "Absolutely no problem."

A few weeks later after he delivered it, he turned to me . . . 

Gary:  Right there so, em, I'm tinking bout it and I tink it might be best if ya found another guy to set it up fer ya.  I'm fraid it might be too much for me - drilling into the ground and making it level and all that.  Sorry, really want to help, but that sucker was deep in the ground sure, and no idea how I'd set it up.  Not really my cup a tea at all.

I thanked him for his help and set out to find a different way to set it up. 

Another guy, Ted, whose number I got from a local hardware store that sells swing sets, was set to come over and take a look at the pieces that were not piled up at the side of our house.  (remember: this was our first house, so Mary Ann wasn't available to complain about swing set pieces left in a heap in the yard).

My mom showed up on the morning of the 10th.  Coach had not left for work yet.  Ted arrived to give me a quote on the swing set.  I talked to him a minute in the backyard and he said he'd knock on the backdoor to let me know when he was ready to give me his price.  

When I envision this morning it reminds me of the scene in Mr. Mom when a bunch of people show up at once.  The wife's new boss asks Mr. Mom (Keaton) what he's doing with the construction project.  "Are you using 2 x 4's then to frame it out?" Then Mr. Mom acts all macho and says something like "yeah, 2 x 4's or 6 x 8's whatever it takes."  Then some lady yells, "you gave a baby chili?" I might be combining scenes, but the overall chaos is reminiscent of my 10th anniversary.  

The doorbell rang.  It was a guy with a cement truck.  

Cement guy:  Hey lady, we're doing your street today.  You want us to do your driveway? 

Me:  How much?

Cement guy:  $3,000.

Me:  (gulp) Um, how soon do you need to know?

Cement guy:  Ah, we'll be down to you in about an hour.

Me:  Um, OK.  I have to talk to my husband first.

My mom opening front door while holding Reg:  Ernie, Ted from the backyard is knocking.  He says he has a price.

I race to the backyard to talk to Ted.

Ted:  $2,500.  It's a big job.  This is a commercial set.  I have to get special equipment and bring in a whole team.  

I told him I would let him know.  I managed to walk back inside the house without having diarrhea right there in the yard.  Coach was in the kitchen racing around, eating breakfast, getting ready to leave, pouring a kid a bowl of cereal.  My mom was holding Reg, I made 'the panic' face at her that screamed 'so you want to watch my marriage end?' and she looked as though she was trying to become part of the wallpaper.

Me:  So, that guy Ted is out there.  He told me how much for the swing set.  And the cement guy showed up a few minutes ago.  (weak smile) He says it is $3,000 for the driveway and we have to let him know in under an hour.

Coach:  Shit.  That's a lot.  So much for a discount.  How much for the swing set?

Me:  (in barely a whisper) $2,500 

Coach:  (stopped chewing)  WHAT?  We can't do that.  You can't get that swing set then.  You wanted it because it was free, it no longer feels free!  We don't have that kind of money.  Are you insane?

My checkbook was in my hand.  I looked at it wishing it help magic powers.  I needed to head out to the school for fee day.  I was speechless - a condition I am unfamiliar with.   Fees, driveway, swing set.  How could we pay for it all?

My mom was literally plastered to the wall, eyes lowered.  Reg squirming, trying to get me to hold him.  Coach looked at me as he marched out the door.

Coach:  Whatever.  You're going to do whatever anyway.  

After he left, I flagged down cement guy in the front yard.  Wrote him a check, and told him that this was my 10th anniversary, and possibly my last.  He chuckled, I told him I was serious.

I drove up to the school and paid the fees.  When I got home, my mom fluffed her short hair in her usual nervous-tick sort of way, shaking her head.  "Oh, Ernie.  That was so awkward.  I can help pay for part of the swing set."  I told her she didn't have to do that (but I think she did anyway).  No matter what, it was just so much money ALL ON THE SAME DAY.  

I knew we would live there forever and the kids would love the swing set and Coach would come to appreciate it.  I called Ted and said it was a go.  

By our 12th anniversary we had enjoyed one fall and one full summer of our top notch swing set, added another baby Dec. 19, 2007, and moved across town May 31, 2008 without the world's coolest swing set - to a bigger house.  Across the street from Mary Ann.  

And the rest is history.   


Kari said...

Happy Anniversary!! Am I the only commenter to say I was actually in the pews of said wedding?
Oh, and Mr. Mom was written by John Hughes.

Nicole MacPherson said...

Happy anniversary! I hope you had a great day. Glad you survived the swing set debacle.

Kara said...

A few summers ago, my Dad came home with a full set of city park playground equipment - swing set, metal slide, soccer net frames- from a salvage sale. They set it up with a lot of cursing and rental equipment, and my Mom is thrilled to have it for the grandkids and yeah, that stuff lasts FOREVER.

Suzanne said...

Happy anniversary!

As someone who bought a swingset and had it installed (a few years ago now), I can COMPLETELY empathize. That shizz is EXPENSIVE.

Ernie said...

Kari - I do believe you are the only commenter who was at my wedding. Too funny. I wanted to post a photo of the swing set, but I am on vacation and cannot access one . . . photo to follow. I did not know Hughes wrote Mr. Mom, but that makes sense.

Nicole - Thanks, we are on vacation in Michigan and hung out at the beach all day - very relaxing. Oh, that swing set story, seems like just yesterday - takes me back to the days. That was stressful. These days can still be stressful - different kind of stress.

Kara - That sounds like a great score. I bet the grandkids do love it.

Suzanne - it was definitely one of those everything happening at once kind of things, AND it landed on our anniversary. Yes, those things are pricey. So much for 'free.'

Gigi said...

Happy anniversary!! Love that picture of the two of you!

Beth Cotell said...

Happy Anniversary! And we need a picture of this swing set! It must be MASSIVE!

Ernie said...

Gigi- thanks. Funny how it feels like forever ago, but it also seems like yesterday.

Beth- I meant to upload a pic of it before we left for Michigan. Leaving the house was hectic . . . shock. I wrote the post from Michigan. I will add a few pics to my next post.

Anonymous said...

Happy Anniversary! Your wedding photo is gorgeous! Half way through your blog post, I totally thought you were foreshadowing selling the Colonial just to get away from the pieces of disassembled swing set after years of searching for someone to set it up! I kid! But the idea made me chuckle. Like moving house to get away from a ghost.... :-)

Do your kids remember their way cool commercial swing set? I grew up with a (basic) swing set and looooooved it. Many wonderful memories.


Ernie said...

Maddie-I think Coach would have been more upset with me for insisting we move to escape the swing set debacle.

My older kids DO remember the swing set. Plus I take millions of photos which is now complicating life as I struggle to assemble photo albums. We can still see the swing set in our old yard across town. Those poor people have no use for it (one kid who is probably 17) but I imagine the cost of taking it down is so great, they just ignore it.

Busy Bee Suz said...

Happy anniversary to you both!

This swingset situation was just a prelude to the ping pong table. No? Beuller?

Oh my. He is a patient man and I love him for that....but I'm sure you will never live down the swing set deal. The driveway? I'm sure that helped to sell your home. Right?

I LOVE Mr. MOM. We quote that movie all the time.

Busy Bee Suz said...

Damn it. I can't get my profile to work and my damn old blogger one keeps popping up!
IT'S me!!

Ernie said...

Suz - your name pops up to identify you as your regular friendly self, but blogger is being a pain in the behind of late. Grrr.

I had not thought about the ping pong connection, and died laughing at Beuller. Patience is not actually one of his virtues, but he TRIES really hard to fake it because he DOES not want to emulate his father. Really NO ONE wants that, and faking it is probably harder than actually being patient naturally - so hats off to him there. The real secret here is that the man can barely remember what happened last week, so his lack of memory storage works in my favor here.

Speaking of my impatient father in law, he insisted on dumping some gray, shiny material on the two inch gaps/uneven places in our old crumbling driveway because he is full of half-ass fixes and does not believe in investing anything in anything, so that made the driveway hazardous and ridiculous looking. Yes, I think all of our projects helped sell the house. Did I mention my front door in this post? It was gorgeous -I special designed it with celtic glass and I left it behind. Was told it would not fit in the door frame at the new house. It makes my stomach do a little flip whenever I drive by because my current door is run-of-the-mill, plain ugly.