My dad hated paper plates and plastic forks; he did not care for eating outside. But I loved picnics and longed for them. When I became a mother, I wanted a picnic table for backyard picnics. As young married, DH thought picnic tables were expensive and frivolous. At the time a nice cost about $90, but I kept up my campaign for outside eating until he agreed to make one out of redwood for half the price. Our house at the time only had a cement step down into the yard, but I made many a trip carrying food, dishes, and tablecloths outside so we could “picnic” in our back yard. With two food dribbling little boys, it made more sense to eat in the yard than do clean up in the house anyway!
Then I decided I wanted a deck or some kind of porch. DH frowned again and said he would build it if I would save the money somehow. I asked him how much I needed and “at least $500” was the answer. DH thought the sum was so high at the time, I could never do it; but I set to work and by spring of one year, I had money in an envelope. No way out of it, DH had to start swinging a sledge hammer to break up the old steps, measure off and start digging post holes. I wanted nothing fancy, just a space big enough to set the picnic table, add a few chairs, leaving room to dream on a summer’s day.
Once it was done, our family lived on this deck. DH found respite after work under the spreading tree leaves. Boys cooled off after soccer games, flew paper planes from the railings, and crawled out of their tree house to have sandwiches here. Flowers in pots became our garden. Wrens sang to us daily; robins bathed in our bird baths and rabbits lived underneath. We watched the seasons go from pansies to geraniums to mums. In autumn we piled up pumpkins and squash. Friends came for sandwich suppers; ladies came for morning tea parties with scones and china cups. Most of all, I used the deck as an outdoor reading room where my dreams were not hindered by four walls.
Eventually we added so many flowers, another table with chairs more comfortable than wooden benches, and cement pieces that we felt crowded. A couple of years ago I dared to ask DH what he thought of extending the length of the deck a wee tad. This time, no frown as he loved the deck as much as I did. He set work stretching out the deck along the house. Now we live out there as soon as weather permits. While he was still in the work force, he would start the day there with a cup of tea, hating to move off to his working day. I had lunch out there for him at noon. Again in the evening, we carried out trays, newspapers, and bare feet for the supper hour staying until summer mosquitoes or darkness drove us inside.
When autumn mums begin to get nipped by chilly nights and turkeys with fanned tails begin to appear on the local elementary school windows, we know it is time to close up the deck for winter. We put flower pots in the shed, move chairs up under the eves, take down bird houses and turn over the bird baths. It is always such a sad time, but we are comforted by knowing “if winter comes, can spring be far behind”, as the poet Shelley says. As soon as the Christmas tree comes down in January, we begin to count the days when we can shout to our friends, “Come on over….the deck is open again!”
Now the new sliding door will allow a quick trip outside on those sleepless nights we all have. Tired of tossing among the sheets, worrying about who knows what, bare toes can slip out the bathroom door, eyes can peer up into a star-speckled sky and know that the heavens still hang where God put them and life will unfold as it was meant to do, sleep or no sleep at all. While my Dad enjoyed his outside hours on the back of a cycle leaning into curves, and others find theirs tramping through the woods, I find my outside pleasure in my own backyard standing on a few planks of wood.