Yesterday, I jumped on the trampoline with my cousin’s kids. We hopped around for hours until I ruptured L4, L5, and S1. It was great.
I remember when my old man bought a trampoline for me and my kid sister before he died. Trampolines were a big deal in Kid World. My family had never known such shameless expenditures. A trampoline was a novelty such as had never been seen before by our kind.
The view of my people was that trampolines were for rich folks. They were luxury items for the well-off.
Moreover, my old man was tighter than a duck’s hindparts. We never expected him to splurge on a piece of equipment intended for something as unproductive and wanton as acrobatic play.
I come from a modest family of humble fundamentalists. We bought our bread from the day-old bread store. We saved our newspapers. We donated our used teabags to missionaries.
We never left lightbulbs on in rooms unless we were physically inside the aforementioned room.
My father inherited his frugality from his grandfather. When my great-grandfather was on his deathbed, half blind from diabetes, he squinted into the darkness and said, “Is everyone here?”
“Yes, Daddy,” the family said. “We’re all here, gathered around your bed.”
“But, if you’re all here,” he said, “then why in the name of God are the lights still on downstairs?”
I remember the afternoon my father put the trampoline together in the backyard. It became the hottest news to ever hit the Kid Telegraph. One boy came all the way from Greensboro just to see it.
Within the span of one day, my backyard became the most popular place in six counties. After that, on any given weekend you could see a single-file line of runny noses stretching from our trampoline into the street.
We kids jumped for twenty-six hours per day until we either fell from exhaustion or sustained a concussion.
I can still recall when Donny Randolph broke his nose during a mid-air collision with Bradley Albertson’s shinbone. His nose started to bleed and he ran home screaming, “MAMA!”
His mother arrived, storming up our driveway, carrying the wrath of God upon her. Her forehead was hot enough to melt her cat-eye glasses.
“I demand that you dismantle this thing,” she said to my father. “My son’s lucky he didn’t break his neck. I oughta sue you!”
So my father agreed to take the thing apart. The next morning he got out his toolbox and started disassembling the Wonder of Childhood while 1,284 children gathered around him to mourn. I could swear I heard “Taps” playing somewhere in the distance.
“Please, Mister Dietrich!” the kids cried in unison. “Please don’t get rid of the trampoline!”
Children began throwing themselves onto the ground, wallowing in agony, rending their garments, and openly weeping.
Thankfully, my father agreed to leave it standing.
And so we tykes lived on that trampoline. All kids. All creeds. All denominations. We ate lunch upon it. We played Spin the Bottle, Truth or Dare, and Telephone while seated on its black fabric. It was our life.
Sometimes, after dark, a random neighbor boy would still be jumping in the backyard. Occasionally, someone’s mother would nab her kid from the trampoline at dusk, then drag the child home by his or her earlobe, angrily muttering, “When I call you for supper, you’d better come, buster!”
We were all “buster” back then.
Then my father died. It was a dark period indeed. That trampoline became like a tomb to me. Nobody came around to use it. There were no children at my house. It was like the thing was cursed.
My kid sister and I quit jumping altogether. No more fun. No more games. Often we would lie upon the nylon and stare at the cold sky above us and wonder why.
Why does life hold treasures for some, but deliver suffering for others? Why do good people die?
“What does the word suicide mean?” my baby sister asked me one day while lying on the trampoline.
And it was there, upon a backyard toy, where I gently explained the manner in which her father met his end.
After a while, since nobody was using the trampoline, my uncle took it apart. He put the thing into a giant box, and that was that.
Not long thereafter, I remember there was a family at our church who was going through hard times. I was invited to a birthday party at their house. My mother loaded the trampoline into our truck and gave it to the needy kids as a birthday gift.
That night, when the trampoline was erected in the family’s backyard, I remember watching kids jump and shout with adolescent joy. And I cried. Hard. But my tears, you see, weren’t sad tears. They were tears of—I don’t know—gladness, I guess.
Because to me, it was as through the spirit of my father lived on somehow within that stupid apparatus. He would have loved to see children laughing. It was one of the things he loved most.
And wherever he is now, I’d like to think he still enjoys watching children laugh happily in mid-air.
Even middle-aged ones.
Karla - January 5, 2022 8:45 am
I love to read your articles. Itscymthe first thing I do when I wake up. Keep writing, it’s starts a good start to my day.
Julie - January 5, 2022 11:19 am
I loved this one! I laughed out loud AND cried. There IS something so magical about trampolines!
Also—our whole family listed to “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” on a Christmas road trip last week. It was the 3rd time this year I read your book, and it captured every one of my teenagers. Not a small feat!! You are an excellent story teller!
Ed (Bear) - January 5, 2022 10:03 am
We’re never too old to be a kid.
Julie - January 5, 2022 11:16 am
Loved this one—I laughed and cried. There IS something magical about trampolines.
Penn Wells - January 5, 2022 1:11 pm
Well, we all know youth is wasted on the young… 😎
dianakinser55 - January 5, 2022 1:48 pm
I haven’t been on a trampoline in many years (I’m smart enough now to know to steer clear at my age). Once when I was a child, my family was visiting some friends with a trampoline. My dad came out, jumped high in the air and did the most amazing flips! We were are dumbfounded! I found out that he, his two sisters and two brothers had been an acrobatic trampoline act performing at circuses and events. I was in awe and saw my dad in a whole new light!
Shelton A. - January 5, 2022 1:57 pm
It’s hard to get to that place where a lost loved one’s memories are sometimes good and even happy ones. Glad you’re there, Sean. God bless you and Jamie plus the pooches, too.
Jessica - January 9, 2022 2:40 am
This was all beautiful, but I’m still pondering the donation of used tea bags. Would you let them dry in the sun before sending them? Is there a specific re-use of them?
Debbie g - January 5, 2022 2:14 pm
You are amazing to make us laugh and cry at the same time We are all blessed to have you Sean. Love you and sweet Jamie and again love to us all
Paul McCutchen - January 5, 2022 2:25 pm
We were on the verge of getting a trampoline. We lived 10 miles out in the country with not many kids around. My father called the insurance company and they told him his homeowners would go up. I got a bicycle and this was before they would gear you up just to ride. Never figured out the logic.
CHARALEEN WRIGHT - January 5, 2022 2:53 pm
Stacey Wallace - January 5, 2022 3:30 pm
Thanks, love you and Jamie.
robnrockinRobyn - January 5, 2022 3:46 pm
Thank you Sean…he is enjoying you and smiling now. Peace my friend…
Cathy M - January 5, 2022 4:38 pm
I have a lump in my throat the size of an egg. I can’t cry bc I have already put on my make up to meet friends for a birthday celebration. So, just know how touched my heart is that your dad stepped out on love and bought that trampoline. Yes, you lost him way too early but some people never knew that kind of love. I lost my dad when he was 49 and I was almost 21. I am now 73 and hardly a day goes By that he does not cross my mind. He told me once that no one would ever love me like he did. Just be glad that you got that love and the trampoline. He is still with you. I know it’s true❤️
Lynn Carol Owen - January 5, 2022 5:15 pm
Great, great story….but sad too.
Jesse - January 5, 2022 7:12 pm
Chasity Davis Ritter - January 5, 2022 7:25 pm
I was just commenting to a friend earlier about grief and missing someone. You’re dad has been gone quite awhile. My dad just over 3 years. Her husband only so many months. But we think of them everyday. The pain and grief can sneak up in you any unforeseen moment and in any little triggered memory. We never know what it might be. And we have sad tears or ugly tears or even sometimes happy little memories that leak down our cheeks. We like to imaging them happy up there. We like to imagine that most of all. I’m glad today you thought of your daddy smiling as you jumped upon the trampoline. I pictured my grandkids jumping on theirs and I swear my legs can feel the vibration of that stretched nylon under my feet while I’m sitting here in the couch typing this. You always evoke such memories with your writing and also being on the waterworks just about daily. It’s good for my soul. Hope it was good for yours too
Dr. Patrick Boyd - January 5, 2022 7:44 pm
Just something about trampolines. I wrote about my experience with my own kids several years ago and it still haunts me.
Jan - January 5, 2022 8:00 pm
Linda Moon - January 5, 2022 9:21 pm
My kids’ father bought a trampoline for them when they were little. We weren’t rich folks, though. I’m so glad your father didn’t take the trampoline down so all you kids could live and jump and play! And I think the trampoline was a good place to wonder and explain the unthinkable to your sister. Suicide is a very, very hard thing for fathers’ children. Your father is watching, Sean, with eyes from The Father that we just can’t comprehend. Our family’s father is watching, too. God…how we miss them.
MAM - January 5, 2022 10:52 pm
I agree with Linda Moon that your father is definitely watching with God’s eyes. All of my memories of my dad are happy ones. I often think about how my business has succeeded because of my dad’s lessons on money to me when I was still a teenager and not terribly excited about it. He knew what I needed to know in life.He and Mom were my foundation. Thanks, Sean.
Karen Snyder - January 6, 2022 10:21 pm
Rhonda - January 6, 2022 11:01 pm
Hard thing to deal with …no doubt about it…
But. I do believe..in the sweet by and by…you will meet on that beautiful shore
Holly Lee - January 9, 2022 3:13 am
I just cried and cried reading this. I think because my parents divorced when I was 9 and I remember everything being dark too. Now being a parent, I know how important family is. I don’t take it for granted, not one minute. God bless you.
Shirley - January 10, 2022 2:53 pm
Agreeing with others, I laughed AND cried. You are one of the BEST storytellers around