Ode to the Trampoline: A World in 8ft

The best birthday present I ever received was a trampoline. I was 13, walking home from school with a hundred-lb backpack through October’s falling leaves, excited to be a teenager and happy above all else that it was Friday. Our driveway was off of a gravel alleyway, and as I turned the corner into my yard the first thing I saw was a flash of bright blue.

That day, the cobalt blue of the plastic safety guard around the edges of my brand new trampoline was the most vibrant, beautiful color in the world.  It was all I could see for about five seconds. Then I noticed my parents grinning from the lawn chairs on the brick patio. Knowing the way I came home from school everyday, they wanted to be sure they caught my face when I saw their gift to me. Judging from their expressions, mine had been priceless.

I spent my entire weekend on the trampoline, from late in the morning until sundown. My friends came from around the neighborhood to give it a bounce, laughing as we made complete fools of ourselves flipping and flopping all over the place. I taught myself how to do a front-flip, which was the coolest thing of all time (I have since learned all manners of life threatening aerial contortions/rotations).

For the next ten years, that trampoline was a meeting spot for our group. Fall afternoons grilling out in the backyard, Spring showers that soaked the trampoline mat and sent us ever higher into the sky, Summer evenings watching the sunlight fade through the leaves above us. Even in Winter I would go out decked in all sorts of clothing (Chicago has some cold winters) and bounce through the snow. Whether we were laughing through back-flips and belly flops, sitting in a circle talking about our teenage cares, or lying on our backs staring at the sky, we had our circle of content. Hours would go by when nothing outside of the trampoline’s circle mattered (except lunch of course). The rush of the ground up at you as you came down towards the mat, followed by the closest you can get to flying away again was an endless cycle that was a sensation of elated freedom.

Of course not all of it was happy. My young neighbor came over with his big sister (around 4 and 9 yrs, respectively) on the day their mother died of cancer. He sobbed while we sat in the circle, comforting him as best we could. As weeks and months went by, he came over more and more to bounce with me on the trampoline, for me an escape from high school, for him an escape from everything.  Again, outside the circle just didn’t exist.

The trampoline became a haven for anyone who just needed a break. I would often look outside my window and see one or more of my friends laying out tanning, studying, or sleeping on its warm black mat. Meals were served, books were read, stories were told, and life was put on hold: all in our 8ft diameter world.

Now, years later, those hours of content are a cherished part of my history. My friends live in their new homes in their new states, separated, hours from a simple shared cup of coffee. We’ve all grown up and become respectable citizens trying to make our way in the world. I have new joys, new sorrows, and new ways of dealing with each. We don’t live in Chicago anymore. When my family moved, we gave the trampoline to a friend’s kids, who just couldn’t believe their luck. I hope it has begun to give them the joy and comfort it brought me. They don’t realize it yet, but they inherited a world.

7 Responses to “Ode to the Trampoline: A World in 8ft”
  1. Bob M. says:

    Wonderfully evocative writing. The imagery and sentiment really give readers a sense of “the world” of that trampoline and what it meant to you and your friends.

  2. Uncle Freeze says:

    Enjoyed “Ode to the Trampoline” very, very much. Kudos -Extremely well written!!!

  3. Lizard says:

    This made me smile and brought back happy memories 🙂

  4. Charles R. McEwen says:

    John, Truly, you ARE a writer, a storyteller of the highest caliber. Your Ode to the Trampoline tugs at the heartstrings while offering a unique insight into that special world you found bounded by eight feet of vibrating canvas. Congratulations on a great piece of work.

  5. Angie says:

    wow..you made me cry this morning. Great job keep writing.

  6. What a great story! it brought a tear to my eye as well as a smile to my face! thanks for sharing!

  7. Karen says:

    Wonderfully written, you are a gifted writer, keep writing your memories – these are the treasures your life is made of…

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