When I was a kid, my parents bought me a trampoline. Using a black ink marker, I scribbled my name on it.
The trampoline was twelve feet in diameter, so it accommodated two or three people at a time. Bright blue cloth hugged its sides and its spring coils were huge- as big as my arm, a blue octopus, with silver tentacles, and a springy black body.
Day and night, my trampoline was alive. At night, sitting in the center of our backyard, strange shadows cast over it, scaring me when I put out the garbage. During the day, the black mat basked in the heat of the sun. We had to keep our socks on while jumping; otherwise, we'd hop like desert lizards that never have one foot on the ground for more than a second.
Many kids in the neighborhood joined in the fun. The trampoline not only allowed my friends and I to hop around, but it also became a wrestling ring of sorts; we could fight each other without fear of landing on a hard surface. Then there was Jim, my next-door neighbor. For some reason, everyone called Jim "Tuna". Was it the sandwich of choice for Jim or perhaps it was Jim's large tuna-shaped physique? Regardless, when he ran over from the house across the street, his feet dragged across the pavement, making a "swoosh-swoosh" sound that competed with the "swish-swish" of his corduroy pants- a walking instrument.
Tuna weighed at least two hundred pounds. We could watch the trampoline sink a few inches into the dirt as he clawed his way onto it. He gained a wide berth because we knew the results of his jumps; he landed and sent us flailing. The ground shook when he jumped- and although he never really got as high as most of us, he always laughed afterward. No one wrestled with Tuna, because if he sat on you, you were done for.
We all had fun on that trampoline, but the fun was short lived. The fleeting summers of our New England town left us anxious for next spring so we could continue our tramping on the trampoline.
Winter meant long days inside being bored, or outside shoveling snow. I could think of absolutely nothing to do one particular winter day, so I walked the stairs down to the basement. The basement appealed to me. It had the only carpeted floors in the house. I liked the feel of the carpet on my bare feet. Dark lighting and a musty smell permeated the basement. I never pinpointed where the musty smell came from, or what the smell was; that's why it fascinated me. The basement also had the quality of being rustic and yet totally inviting.
I wandered to a far corner where my trampoline sat (in winter, the trampoline hibernated in the basement, to save it from rust). Today I decided to jump on my trampoline. There would be no hurt in taking a few hops. Yet in my mind, with a shaking finger, I heard my mom say, "Don't use the trampoline indoors". But I was bored, and boredom demands silence from those voices of parental concern. I wanted to jump on my trampoline.
So, I jumped, once.
Emergency Medical Technicians arrived a few minutes later. They gave me a free ride to county hospital in their ambulance. I had knocked myself out, my forehead leaving a large dent in the basement ceiling. Luckily, the doctors at county hospital determined that I did not suffer a concussion, although dizziness left me incapacitated for a few hours.
Long after my attempt to break through the basement ceiling, the trampoline remained my favorite toy. Tuna and all my friends continued to play on it with me. We became more daring and agile on it as time went on. Soon some of us could execute back and front flips.
The letters of my name on the trampoline soon faded, as did my youth. But I never forgot my favorite toy. Many memories came back to me the other day when I saw a trampoline in a neighborhood backyard: Tuna "swish-swooshing" musically to my house, my childhood friends bouncing around and knocking each other over, the EMT's and my ride in an ambulance. Soon I found myself jumping into the air, and I rubbed my forehead, smiling.