In 2007, opportunity knocked in the form of a three-inch sliver in my four-year-old daughter’s little foot. It was as gruesome as it sounds. Despite that, I asked the surgeon to save the piece of wood for posterity. For now, it’s in her baby box that contains lots of “firsts.” First sippy cup. First favorite toy. First story book. I’m willing to bet she’s the only kid with a giant piece of wood sealed in a urine specimen jar with a label that reads “Abigail’s First Sliver” along with the date. She’ll be 16 in a few months and has yet to inquire about it. Too many bad memories, I suppose.
To this day, I don’t know why I told her to come in and put shoes on. We tend to run around barefoot in the backyard. But I suspect it had everything to do with an article I read about skin-penetrating nematodes affecting people who walk barefoot on contaminated soil. Particularly people with dogs.
As she leaped from the grass onto the first stair leading up to the deck, the sliver entered between her big and second toe. I heard the scream and when I found her howling on the ground, looked at her foot and saw about an inch of wood protruding from it. Not realizing just how long it really was, I removed what I thought was all of it, but she still winced the rest of the evening and into the next day.
A visit to the doctor amounted to nothing more than a pat on the head, a lollipop and the reassurance that the tenderness would resolve in a few days. By the next day, a faint purple line was creeping from the puncture wound and up her foot. Back to the doctor who ordered an x-ray and sent us straight to the hospital. Abigail had about two inches of pressure treated wood left in her foot and the beginning of a blood infection.
The event would set off a chain reaction of garden opportunities that, without a doubt, was the silver lining in a horrifying experience. After almost a week in the hospital, we began rethinking the deck situation and reacclimating our daughter who’d grown accustomed to 2 am mac-and-cheese service during her hospital stay.
Despite regular sanding and sealing, the deck was aging fast in its southern exposure. We carried on with it for another year until I suggested a pergola to my husband. Who responded, “Perga-what?” So I showed him some examples and he got to work. I don’t know anyone who can take a foreign idea, exile himself to a drafting table and come up with exactly what I had in mind. But he did.
Armed with a plan and a drill, the deck became history. I was excited to create an outdoor room that felt more enclosed. The steep slope of the yard made us feel as though we were always on display on the deck. I was happy to see it go and eager to get started on the pergola.
A close friend, who also happens to own an excellent landscaping company, installed the patio to my husband’s specs. He worked around the anchors that my husband poured for the main supports of the pergola. We also secured a header to the house, the height of which was extremely important. Too high and it would lose the intimate feel we wanted.
Within a matter of weeks, we had an outdoor living space that, over time, has morphed into a haven not only for us, but a myriad array of little creatures that are drawn to it. Hummingbirds flit about, staking claim with their tell-tale U-shaped swooping patterns.
Every spring, robins nest in the juniper trees that flank the grill and also in the crotches of the pergola cross beams. Blue Moon wisteria sprawls overhead, offering protection from the hot southern sun.
Beneath these beams, surrounded by my family on a warm summer evening is about as perfect as it gets. Our daughter might even say it was all worth it. Then again, maybe not.
Do you have an outdoor room?