Posted On April 30, 2020
Twice on my walk recently, I was stopped dead in my tracks. Both times by trampolines. Okay that’s weird, I get it, but it happened. Twice in the same twenty minute walk.
The first time there was a little glimmer in the corner of my eye. A quick flash of motion that caused me to slow my steps and turn to the left. As I did, the motion became more clear. It was that of limbs and angles – those of a young teen girl – a storm of hair raining down over her head.
While this might not be something really all that noteworthy, other than pausing to notice the way that trampolines seem to tease the laws of physics and gravity. There was something about this motion. Bony knees absorbing the shock of movement. Waving arms, seemingly out of control or at least out of sync with the downward movement. Then the hair, going both up towards the clear blue sky and down around the owner’s pale face.
It reminded me of the countless times I’d stand at our kitchen sink, preparing dinner or washing dishes and seeing that same combination of movements. Only those movements belonged to Rylie.
It reminded me of the countless conversations and yelling matches we had over her use of the trampoline. In many ways, Rylie resembled Bambi on the trampoline. Ziggy would get so upset with her because she never seemed to have control of her body.
She and Tanner spent hours on that trampoline. The older they got, the more dangerous their time on the tramp was. As Tanner grew and became more coordinated as an athlete, his athletic coordination and bodily control followed him to the trampoline. He could attempt flips and crazy tricks because he was always acutely aware of his body position.
For some reason, that same transition didn’t take place for Rylie. She seemed to have no idea of what her body was doing. She also had zero fear. That combination was a recipe for disaster. I’m pretty sure it’s one of the reasons that Ziggy has so many gray hairs.
As I watched this young girl today, joyfully bouncing, I was struck by her age. She’s about the same age as Rylie was before she died. I watched her bouncing, bouncing by herself because her siblings have all outgrown the call of the trampoline, and I was reminded not only of Rylie, but also of Tanner.
Our trampoline still stands in the backyard. These days, it’s more of a glorified hockey gear airing out station than a toy or place of childhood exuberance.
While a trampoline can make anyone feel like a kid again (at least until they’re done jumping and realize they have so many aches and pains), for Tanner it is a reminder of what he has lost.
Every so often he’ll approach the trampoline with a level of wariness. It’s as though he hears the call of it, inviting him to a time of wild abandon and seeming weightlessness, but isn’t quite sure that the call is meant for him.
As the kids grew up together, they would find common ground on that trampoline. Although their skill levels and coordination were different, they found common ground in the joy of jumping. If I close my eyes, I can hear Rylie challenge Tanner to a trick and then her signature laughter as he tried it. I can hear Tanner explaining the rules to some superhero fighting game that he’d invented and convinced her to play.
I imagine that Tanner hears those things too as he approaches the trampoline, one young man, alone.
It was thoughts and memories like these that floated through my brain as I walked the dogs. As happens on most of my walks, my mind wandered to other topics with the memories lingering faintly in the background.
That is until I passed another house where I heard the tell tale sounds of squeaking springs and laughter. As I turned to my right, I was confronted with yet another girl who is probably somewhere between 11 and 13. She was jumping with a sibling.
Those memories that had gently faded out of my mindseye like a tide going out to sea, came crashing back. A wave of emotion. Of longing. Of wondering.
I don’t know how often Rylie and Tanner would have continued to jump on our trampoline. Perhaps naturally it would have transitioned to the hockey equipment airout station even if Rylie were still alive, but I suspect that both of them would have found times where the gravitational pull of fun was stronger than their desire to “be cool.”
I slowed my steps, wanting to soak in this tidal pool of memories just a bit longer, even with all the emotions and questions.
I considered an interaction that Tanner and I had just a day or so prior, when I’d climbed up on the trampoline for a moment. The look in his eyes… the battle between excitement and loss. The longing to have a jumping partner.
I acknowledged my sadness knowing that I will never be an adequate substitute for the sister he loved and lost. The heartbreak of knowing Tanner battles demons that hide not under his bed, but in plain sight outdoors – tangible reminders of what is missing.
I indulged in the “what could have beens” as I imagined for a moment the sounds and shenanigans that would have likely come to be during this time of quarantine had Tanner’s partner in crime been here to egg him on.
I brushed tears aside and pressed my hands to my chest as I felt the weight of reality settle on it.
I slowed my steps so that I could acknowledge and honor those feelings, but after I bit I returned to my normal pace. With each step I found myself shifting, looking for the celebrations in those memories. The sounds of laughter. The pure abandon of limbs and angles, much like the set that caught my eye initially.