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Mine was a Memorial weekend to remember, but not for the altruistic and patriotic reasons – although any father of a Marine, which I am, holds service and sacrifice with immeasurable respect – but because we made a lot of memories around our place.
During my youth, Memorial Day was the holiday when we would visit the gravesite of my maternal grandfather, whom I can’t remember from my infancy but whose medals from World War I have been for decades part of the decor in my mother’s bedroom.
I am a traditionalist who believes that this holiday still should be celebrated on the less-convenient but intended date of May 30 and that it lost a bit of luster when the Indy 500 fell from being a principal spectacle of American sport to being a claiming race on wheels. (Outside of Jim Nabors, does anyone even care anymore about being “Back Home Again In Indiana”?)
But my weekend was spent with almost none of that and a little of everything else, beginning Saturday morning, when my wife suggested my 11-year-old and I shoulder up a long-delayed chore: to make our residence at Dozen Acres Farm official in that back-roads-of-Shelby-County-kind-of-way by erecting a sign with the name on it.
“He will think that’s really cool,” she said, or something to that effect. Then she suggested we also tackle TardyChore No. 2: erecting a basketball goal from a flat box lying in our garage. See, can I make memories or what?
If you recall from earlier confessions, I am about as mechanical as a mannequin. The capabilities of my father, my brothers and even my mother decimate my manhood and strip away my self-esteem. I barely can screw in a bolt without making a daylong project out of it.
Which takes me back to Saturday, the day I began to install the sign that was a Christmas gift from my wife’s parents. They had planned to install it, but their visits intersected with the arrival of ground-hardening cold, and the opportunity never presented itself. Alas I took up the sign.
Or the sign took up me. For two days. Including eight trips to two hardware stores, a stop at an equipment rental place (closed), a visit from my dad and a consultation or three with him about how to go about this.
Now, the first step was reading the instructions, which I had done weeks ago and completely forgotten. That’s where it said 2x4 boards not included. Hence hardware visits to acquire and have cut to size – unspecified – said wood. Here, my dad contributed some sage advice by noting that I had purchased only enough wood for one post. See how those trips can mount up?
The easiest part was the part I had dreaded most: digging the holes. Admittedly, I didn’t dig them as deep as the directions suggested (required?), but I made sure they were snug with my posts and on firm ground (which is why they weren’t as deep as suggested). There were calamities of various sorts – nothing deal-killing – until, after trip No. 5 to cut the boards a bit shorter because of the shallower hole, I planted that baby right there by the road, by which time every neighbor from the 60-odd houses past our driveway had seen this process at least 10 times. One even stopped to chat. So did my parents after church, although their prayers were a bit late. But at least we had the sign up and, with concrete added, it wasn’t going anywhere.
That’s when my bride suggested that she had been checking out other similar signs along her bucolic ride home from errands and that she would like some flowers, a spotlight and mulch around the base of said sign. I had that in my head, but I was thinking, you know, Phase 2 or Week 2 or Part 2, or any other step with a “2” in it. I wasn’t thinking “2-day.”
Alas, one more trip to the store, another hour or so of digging and hauling, and the accoutrements were in place, and our Dozen Acres Farm is, well, identifiable and all of that.
Freed from one task, I moved on the next day to the basketball goal. I had started this process somewhat a few weeks earlier, and I thankfully returned to its encyclopedic instructional booklet with the help of my 11-year-old. He took this is as some sort of heavier Legos project and decided he could do this job alone, which he probably could have, except for the fact that adult strength and a sophomoric vocabulary are prerequisites for completing it.
Which we did not. Time ran out on us. Dinner was needed on Memorial evening, and, well, we hit a problem that required imagination, engineering and panache. Those are in his job description. I was whipped.
So that’s how I spent my Memorial Day weekend, but I have to tell you what my wife was up to when I was erecting a 2-post sign and attempting to erect a 1-post goal.
Well, she planted every inch of our 700-square-foot vegetable garden by hand, with the help of a 6-year-old, mowed most of our dozen acres, spread mulch, tended to the horses, bought groceries and other supplies, grilled up a wonderful meal and ran a 5-kilometer race along the Ohio River.
I guess I have an idea why she was tired on Tuesday, but let me tell you about this sign.