My father-in-law really likes to surprise our children with big gifts.
Or perhaps he just delights in putting me through the misery of building those big gifts.
A few years ago on Christmas Eve, he stunned our girls by bringing a Pop-a-Shot basketball game for them. They were so excited and couldn’t wait to start playing. Unfortunately, it came in a flat box with my favorite understatement printed upon it, “Some assembly required.” I spent an hour building it, while my father-in-law relaxed for an hour, chatting with my wife and kids. Occasionally someone would yell down to the basement, “Are you done yet?”
In 2020, he decided to treat them to a trampoline. We’re a little rough on trampolines and have been through several over the years. We’ve learned that the back of our property is a bit of a wind tunnel. When the derecho blew through a couple years ago, it relocated our trampoline about a quarter-mile away. Those straight-line winds also reshaped it from a circle to an unnatural shape that would’ve made Pablo Picasso proud.
The replacement to that one stood the test of time. I learned to stake it down in three places to avoid tempting those strong, wild winds to relocate it. Eventually the winds did break the poles holding up the nets that protected kids from falling off the bouncy surface, pushing us to start thinking about a replacement.
The kids were so excited when Papa’s gifted trampoline arrived in December. I was so excited knowing I wouldn’t have to assemble it until the weather warmed. I figured I wouldn’t have to build it until late April or May, but our recent string of beautiful afternoons made all the youngsters in our house start asking when the replacement trampoline would go from its box to our yard.
I finally relented a few weeks ago, when I was off work on a Monday. Overconfident from building several trampolines over the past two decades, I ignored the clear labels on the boxes that two people should help build this monstrosity and went to work on it by myself.
I knew I was in for trouble when the bottom of the third page of directions — and I’m not exaggerating any of these quotes — said, “because there will be a pop quiz at the end! (Okay, not really, but if you’re still reading this, props to you! You’re awesome!)”
I’ve built plenty of trampolines from directions before, but I’ve never seen this: “Most importantly… You’ve got this. You’re the best trampoline assembler around.”
The instructions lied about so many things. It said it should take two hours to build. It took almost twice that, although I admittedly had half as many people as it said I should. That fact was particularly obvious when it asked me to flip the entire frame over, saying, “This step is a breeze!” It was not a breeze. I called that trampoline a lot of things over a 15-minute period, but breeze never came to mind.
Then I saw this instruction: “Take a snack break because you’re more than halfway done, and you deserve it.” I took a snack break 10 minutes earlier because the previous step made me want to leave the trampoline untethered to the ground and let it fly away to Oz the next time the winds picked up.
Anyone who’s ever put together a trampoline knows the absolute joy that goes with correctly spacing the springs all the way around the trampoline, especially moving back and forth across the net so nothing gets too tight. I checked afterward, and my watch claimed I walked a mile and a half around this circle. On the bright side, the smart-aleck who wrote the instructions knew enough not to mess with a man pulling springs through hooks by being snarky.
The good news is the new trampoline is now up, safer than the old one, and the kids love it.
The bad news is my father-in-law dropped a couple 500-piece puzzles off at our house recently. I’m really starting to think he just likes to give the kids things that I’ll have to put together.
David Trinko is managing editor of The Lima News, a division of AIM Media Midwest. Reach him at 567-242-0467, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.