Father v Trampoline. Another backyard nightmare. And how The Teenager saved the day.

July 10, 2012

I sat, and stared at the parts set out before me. In the hope that through some sort of backyard miracle, they would assemble themselves.

They didn’t, of course. The bits and pieces refused to assist.

The company responsible had given assurances that anyone could put this trampoline together. I would prove them wrong.

It should have been so simple. After all, I had done such work before. I’ve told you about it. When I put one together on Christmas Eve some years back, with the aid of a helpful neighbour and strong drink.

The proof of my labour that night was sitting at the other end of the yard. But it’s old now. Rusty, and frayed around the edges. With much less bounce. Yes, the similarities between us are striking.

The Teenager had been pleading for a new one for her birthday. She needed it to practice her cheerleading leaps and jumps. The key was the safety net, that our original work of art was missing. It seemed like a reasonable request.

I had spent the best part of an hour studying the instructions. Over and over. Panel One made absolutely no sense to me. I held parts up, twisting them this way and that. Nothing.

The deal was that I would have it functional by the time The Teenager came home from practice. A three-hour window. At this rate I would need three weeks.

The minutes ticked by. The winter sun was in a rush to depart. It would be dark soon. There was nothing to do but sit some more, and continue my pitiful staring.

When The Teenager finally made her way into the yard, there was not even the hint of surprise. It would seem she had expected to see the scene that was indeed before her.

I apologised for my lack of construction ability, and poured scorn on the makers. There had obviously been a mistake in the factory. Parts were missing. It may have even been the wrong model. We would complain firmly, and seek an immediate refund.

As I thundered my protest, The Teenager scanned the paperwork that had been baffling me. And smiled.

‘Dad, you’re reading the wrong instructions. That was for the safety net. THIS is the sheet for the trampoline.’

A simple mistake, it would seem. That lasted for several hours. Daughter Two giggled. She, too, had seen this before.

The Teenager is nothing if not determined. And incredibly talented. She decided to take charge.

‘Dad, this is actually quite simple. I think we can do it.’

And so it was that on a winter’s evening during school holidays, I became hired help for a fourteen year old girl.

Before I knew it she had assembled the base. Daughter Two joined in. We spread the mat, and began hooking up dozens of springs.

Still in a daze from being shown up so completely, and with the night wind biting, I was ready to complete the next phase in record time. But The Teenager cautioned against such haste. If just one spring was put into the wrong position, we’d have to start again. Where does she learn this stuff?

As a team, we took our time, and got it right. And just like that, the job was done. The Teenager squealed as she made her first jump. From foreman to birthday girl, just like that.

There’s something special about being taught things by your daughters. I get the feeling there are many more lessons on the way.

We didn’t have time to do the safety net. That’s the easy bit, she reckons. Maybe this weekend. Just let me know when you need me boss.

Which carol should I sing next? Hic! The problem with getting Merry before Christmas.

December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve has changed so much.

These days, it’s all about the kids. Buzzing with excitement at home. Refusing to go to sleep.

Not so long ago, it was party time. We’d be buzzing. Until someone sent us home, before we fell asleep.

It seems most of the people I’ve known during my life have had a need to socialise the night before Christmas.

Footballers. Punters. Police officers. Media folk. All with a need to find a cool drink on December 24.

Over time, this has caused problems. There are those who see Christmas Eve as a quiet time, for reflection and cooking. Like Mum. And The Treasurer.

They both got in on the act, during a balmy night in Bundaberg many years ago.

Mum, bless her, had come to visit. It was quite a trip, for a woman of advancing years, who had rarely been on a plane. She was determined to see my new home town for herself.

My mother would never have admitted it, but I think she may have also been checking up on her new daughter-in-law’s housekeeping skills. The newly appointed Treasurer seemed to be very aware of this.

I was under instruction to be home on time. There was much to do, and my help was needed.

The trouble was, I had made friends within the local constabulary. Important for a journo in a strange place. And they had decided I was worthy of Christmas Eve drinks.

From memory, they kicked off early afternoon. A never-ending stream of icy cold beers. And the local product. Such generosity.

They nodded with sincerity when I explained the predicament waiting for me at home. And thrust another drink in my direction. Of course, they had no fear of the two women watching the kitchen clock. Easy to be tough, when you’re carrying a gun.

I was unarmed when I finally made it home. Unsteady feet shuffled me into the eye of the festive storm.

In desperation, I decided that music was my only hope. Christmas music. I broke into tune, encouraging the girls to follow my lead.

One thing I’ve picked up along the way, is that it’s difficult to stay angry at a drunken buffoon in the holiday season. Especially if he refuses to stop singing. So it was, that they both joined in.

A rare victory, thanks to ‘Jingle Bells’.

Fast forward to a different house, in a different time. Young children, so happy. But this year, Dad wasn’t singing.

I had been given the task of assembling a trampoline, in the dead of a Brisbane night. Many of you are now laughing.

It was impossible. I tried. I really did. But the bloody netting wouldn’t stretch over the metal bits. There had obviously been a mistake in the Chinese trampoline factory.

My neighbour at the time, a polite man enjoying his retirement years, decided he should offer a helping hand. Possibly to stop the stream of foul language coming from our yard.

He brought with him tools I had never seen. Items that did the job, quickly and professionally. It was a Christmas miracle, eventually adorned with a green bow.

There have been similar scenes most years since. Bungled assembly jobs. Help from a variety of quarters. With cool drinks taken at home instead.

It will be no different this year. Except with Christmas Eve falling on a Saturday, a man can have an afternoon punt as well. Yes, I’m already rehearsing ‘Silent Night’.