"If we buy this, are we actually going to use it?"
"Of course," Craig said. "Of course we will."
And so the hammock depicted in the catalog full of tanned young people lounging and sipping frosty glasses of lemonade came to stay at our house (without the people and their drinks). The half-wistful thought crossed my mind that we might be purchasing the dream of becoming tan, young, and - particularly - lounging.
When the hammock arrived, we hung it immediately, to stretch out in and gawk upward at cedar branches, point out birds, and sigh, "This is so relaxing."
The next day, as we reclined, Craig even went so far as to declare, "Every Sunday at 3 o'clock, we're going to quit what we're doing and hang out in the hammock."
"Every Sunday? Are you sure?" This is a guy who kept lists plotting every second of his upcoming weekends - lists that sometimes cross-referenced other lists: "No. 8. See list A." He encouraged me to jot down "honey do" tasks.
The lists allowed him to accomplish more in two days than most teams of workers finished in a week. Let me add that I was proud of what Mr. Workaholic could do on his time off. But I yearned to occasionally spend a relaxing, meandering, dreaming weekend with him without hearing something like, "It's 10 o'clock! Time for me to rip the roof off the house!"
So I was a wee bit skeptical. But he yawned and stared up at the sky. "Positive." That was the last time we used the hammock for at least five years.
However, I can't lay all the blame at Craig's work boots. Every once in a while, one of us would mention the hammock, only to be quelled by the other.
Part of the problem was that we became ardent gardeners. Gardeners do not sit in their gardens, ignoring blueberries that must be caged, salvia that need deadheading, or a phlox that should be transplanted immediately. So we shared in keeping our hammock folded and empty while we remained untanned, unyoung, and definitely unlounging.
In due course, we hung a toddler's swing in the old cedar. Every time our grandson Liam came to visit, he beelined for the swing. We'd push him for hours. But inevitably, he grew too large for the little swing, and for the branch supporting it.
One day, Craig had a brilliant idea: "We'll swing Liam in the hammock!"
Since the young swingee didn't take immediately to the hammock, Craig and I climbed in with him. Because it was chilly, we wrapped up in a blanket, like an enormous fleece burrito. The hammock, rocked by an occasional tug on a rope tied to a nearby branch, swayed us gently.
We sang "The Grandfather Clock," "I've Been Working on the Railroad," and "Liam's in the Kitchen with Gran Shan" (to the tune of "Someone's in the Kitchen with Dinah"). I told the story of Goldilocks and the three bears a time or 20.
We pointed out woodpeckers and blue jays, and identified a frog chorus. Sometimes we were silent, thinking our own thoughts. We lingered for an hour, or maybe three - time stretching like sweet bubble gum.
Each day of Liam's visit, the three of us put in some major hammock time. When he left, we folded the hammock and put it back in the garage.
"At least we got some use out of it," we told each other. Then we headed out to cage, deadhead, and transplant.
The day before Liam was due for another visit, I said to Craig, "I couldn't find your weekend list. Where is it?"
"I don't have one."
"Huh? Are you a clone? Have aliens snatched Craig? Give me back my husband!"
"OK." Craig grinned. "I do have a list for this weekend. Let me read it to you: Hammock, hammock, hammock."
So a tradition was born. Liam arrives, and we become the incredible swinging fleece burrito.
Sometimes, cuddled between the warm weight of Liam and Craig, and singing or talking or thinking, I remember those young, tanned hammock-loungers from the catalog. And I smile. Because I know that fantasy is nowhere near as good as my reality.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor