It leans against the wall in the corner of my backyard shed, musty and a bit dilapidated. Sometimes the Christmas tree stand or the broom or the rake becomes entangled with it, as the detritus of a storage shed is wont to do. Always, I patiently remove the latest object to invade the badminton net, not wanting it to suffer even a slight tear. The fact that the net was retired over eight years ago and relegated to a dank corner is irrelevant. I’m determined to preserve it for the powerful memories it evokes.
During the summer of 2005, my nephew, who was then ten years old, spent four days with me. They were magical days of movies, computer games, pizza, and badminton. We played for hours on end until we were drenched with sweat, gasping for breath, and gulping Gatorade by the quart. Every afternoon and evening we rushed to the backyard to commence our games, joking and laughing throughout, which is our way. By the end of our all-too-brief time together, the yard had two enormous bald spots, and I think we were a little worn down as well. (Looking back, it’s kind of hard to believe that we destroyed that much grass in so short a period of time.)
At the end of his visit, I drove him back to Virginia and returned to my now quiet house, empty of giggling, pleas for one more game of Backyard Basketball on the computer, and enthusiasm for the latest Harry Potter book. Looming large was the badminton net that I knew had to be dismantled. It was several days before I was up to the task, knowing that it was the final acknowledgement that our special time was truly over.
Our idyllic summer days live on in sweet memories, which I relive with particular joy every time I open the door and see our old badminton net. In the back of the shed, in the front of my heart, it symbolizes my love for a small boy who brightened my world in a special way that summer long ago.