I pulled into the driveway from work a few days ago to find the backyard landscape had changed -- I could see into the neighbor's yard clearly -- the swing set that had occupied a corner of our yard for almost 20 years was gone. I sat for a few minutes in the truck and mourned its demise.
The summer our son, David, was 3, we purchased it for our backyard. And what a swing set it was! There was a slide, a teeter-totter, two kiddy swings, monkey bars and, best of all, a two-seat bench swing for adults.
I loved the bench swing and spent many hours on it, watching David and his friends when they were too young to be out in the yard alone. Thanks to the venerable lilac bush next to it, the bench swing was almost always in the shade, and was the perfect spot for reading a book on a hot summer afternoon while gently swinging.
As a child myself, I had spent many wonderful hours on a friend's swing set -- seeing how high we could go on the swings. (Could we possibly go high enough to go up and loop over the top bar?) We would get the teeter-totter going so fast, the legs of the swing set would thump up and down as they came out of the ground. And then there were the lazy days when we just sat in the swings and contemplated life as we spun in the swings.
To say my husband, Guy, and I were not Handy Andys is a gross understatement. When we bought the swing set and got it home, we opened the box and found three huge bags of nuts, bolts, screws and other mysterious metal parts. We were in big trouble. There had to be a thousand pieces. The instruction book -- all 96 pages of it -- might as well have been directions for building a Boeing 767. There certainly were enough parts for one!
The swing set would be in the box to this day, except for one of Guy's good friends, also a David, who sacrificed two weekends to put it together. Not an easy task with a 3-year-old dancing around and trying to help.
Finally it was complete, and the cement holding the legs in the ground was dry. David and his friends were off and running -- and so were Guy and I. The kids were too little to use the monkey bars, so we hefted each one up and held them while they swung across -- over and over and over. We pushed them in the swings and caught them as they thundered down the slide. That night, David, by then exhausted, fell asleep as he and I rocked in the bench swing.
The years went by and the kids grew. They no longer needed Guy and me to help them across the monkey bars. They teeter-tottered so fast and hard, we thought the bolts would break. They, too, tried to see if they could wrap the swings around the top bar.
The first part of the swing set to go was the slide. The kids were too big to use it and the ladder was pretty rusted. The kid swings were the next to go, no one was using them and Guy was tired of mowing the lawn around them.
I fought to keep the adult swing, it was still a good place to sit, rock and mull about life. And in order to keep that swing, it meant keeping the monkey bars that supported one side of it, which turned out to be a good place to hang bird feeders.
I fought for keeping the bench swing this time around, too.
"When was the last time you used it?" David demanded.
"Sassy (our dog) and I used it one day last fall," I countered. To be honest, it hadn't been the same since Guy and a neighbor had eliminated the lilac bush near it two years ago.
"My point exactly," was David's response. And a few days later it was gone -- but will never be forgotten.
No day of playing in the yard would be complete without Kool-Aid and a snack. One of my go-to recipes was Rice Krispie Treats. To make them special, I would sometimes mix in mini M&Ms.
Classic Rice Krispie Treats
3 tablespoons butter or margarine (not tub, diet or reduced fat)
1 package (10 oz., about 40) regular marshmallows or 4 cups miniature marshmallows or 1 jar (7 oz.) marshmallow crème
6 cups Rice Krispies cereal
In large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.
Add Rice Krispies cereal. Stir until well coated.
Using buttered spatula or wax paper, evenly press mixture into 13x9-inch pan coated with cooking spray. Cool. Cut into 2-inch squares.
Another kid favorite was Chex Mix Muddy Buddies. Although they weren't available back in the day, I bet that Chocolate Chex Cereal would be really good in them.
Chex Mix Muddy Buddies
9 cups Corn Chex or Rice Chex
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (peanut butter chips are good, too)
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Into large bowl, measure cereal; set aside.
In 1-quart microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter uncovered on High 1 minute; stir. Microwave about 30 seconds longer or until mixture can be stirred smooth. Stir in vanilla. Pour mixture over cereal, stirring until evenly coated. Pour into 2-gallon resealable food-storage plastic bag.
Add powdered sugar. Seal bag; shake until well coated. Spread on waxed paper to cool. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.
Margaret Button is the city editor of the North Adams Transcript. Send recipes for inclusion in future columns to the North Adams Transcript, 85 Main St., Suite 2, North Adams, Mass. 01247 or email them to email@example.com.