On The Ropes by Jamie Kirkpatrick


As most problems go, this one isn’t very high on the inconvenience scale. Nevertheless… three days ago, the hammock in the backyard broke. Amazon has another one on the way, but it will be another two days in transit, a veritable lifetime in weather like this.

It was a rope hammock from LLBean and I really shouldn’t complain: it served me well for a good three years. But over time and seasons, rope weathers, sags, and eventually rots and the other day, the first knots let go from the spreader. Others weren’t far behind. I got out in time…barely. Now the frame sits empty, patiently waiting for its new occupant—a double wide, two-point tight-weave Caribbean poly rope model with hardwood spreaders, perfect for lazy summer afternoons…if I could just find one.

That’s the real problem: when I go out back to lay in the hammock, all I can see are the things I have to do: the grass that needs to be cut; the shed that needs to be cleaned out; the weeds that need pulling; a bike in need of repair; a board that needs to be replaced, etc., etc. Talk about irony! The ultimate seat of relaxation turns into all manner of items on that pesky honey-do list. Guilt or a misguided work ethic rears its ugly head and I’m launched like a rocket. So much for another lazy summer afternoon.

But it’s not the hammock’s fault and I’m sure not going to throw out the baby with bath water. I’ll take my time, get something done, and let the hammock be my reward which of course will start the whole never-ending cycle all over again. There’s no escaping life; it just keeps coming at you which if you think about, is a whole lot better than the alternative.

And speaking of babies, this brings me in a roundabout way to the grandkids. Two of our five (four-year-old Gavin and two-year-old Annie) spent the last three days with my wife and me while their mom was dealing with a nasty wisdom tooth extraction. Talk about life coming at you fast! Take four cups of high energy, curiosity, mischief, and enthusiasm, mix in a pinch (literally) of sibling rivalry and a dash of a tear or two, add one sycamore tree with some shredding bark, one trip to the ER (he’s fine, thank you), a fascinating pile of pea gravel, a gauntlet of sprinklers on a sizzling afternoon in the backyard, the soundtracks from “The Lion King,” “Frozen,” and “The Little Mermaid” at full blast, popcorn for dinner (yes, we did but just once), endless loads of laundry, three full dishwashers a day, and a truckload of trash and you’ll understand why, when the dust finally began to settle on Sunday afternoon, that empty hammock stand looked so forlorn. It couldn’t even deliver a minute of post-tumult sweet repose. As you-know-who might tweet in one of his more lucid moments, “Sad!”

Don’t get me wrong: they’re sweet, wonderful kids and it was great to have them. True: it gets a little crazy and messy sometimes and once or twice they almost had me on those other ropes (now do you get the connection?), but it’s the little things that matter most: a funny facial expression, watermelon dribbling off a chin, a crazy laugh, “Please” at the end of a sentence, spontaneous dancing, an early morning snuggle when a little somebody crawls into our bed for a few extra winks. Too bad the hammock was out of commission because a little light swinging goes a long way with a two-year-old who loves to sing “Let It Go!” at the top of her lungs.

Oh well. Today, you can find me on the front porch waiting for that brown UPS truck with my Christmas-in-August present from Amazon. Now if I could only stop humming Hakuna Matata…

I’ll be right back.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015.  A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was released in May and is already in its second printing. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.

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