It was during quarantine that I fell in love with my trampoline. (Or, some might say, I fell under its spell.)
Previous to that, it was my daughters’ trampoline. We had surprised them with it years earlier as a school’s-out-it’s-summer kind of thing. The trampoline was a huge hit. The girls jumped together, they jumped separately. They had competitions, for which I was the diplomatic judge. Too diplomatic, they complained. When their friends came over, they went straight to it. They jumped with their cousins when they came for holidays. There were late-night jumps with flashlights. Sometimes I’d look down the hill our house sits on to the trampoline and they’d just be lying there, looking up at the sky. Or in more recent years, with boyfriends. But during the early days of COVID, they weren’t interested. They were older: a high school senior and a college graduate who never in a million years expected to be coming home to live with us again.
As for me, I needed action. We’d adopted a puppy right before we hunkered down, but he wasn’t ready for long walks yet, which was fine, because in those early days I was afraid to go outside. Then, I got braver. But walking the pup was not enough. I’d run up and down our small private street in zigzags. Why zigzags? Because I covered more ground. One of my neighbors told me she thought I was drunk. I’m not a runner. I admire those people who just jog by with a smile on their faces. For me, it takes great effort. Zigzags made it more interesting.
I started to look down at that trampoline with longing. No one was using it. Not even the neighbors’ kids to whom I had offered its use. So I went down there and I climbed on and I jumped. Sure, I had jumped on it before. With my girls. When they were smaller. But I had never gone down there and jumped all by myself. Unlike running, it felt effortless. Unlike exercising for exercise’s sake, it felt fun. In fact, I loved it.
Quickly I learned that a running bra was necessary. Running shoes gave more support than bare feet. And a playlist. The playlist was key. I jumped to rock, alt, funk. One day Miley Cyrus would call me, the next, Childish Gambino. New Wave Essentials inspired super fun jumping. I started to track how many miles I jumped. Twenty minutes of jumping was 1.35 miles; one hour equaled 4 miles. Some days I’d start my workout in my living room or up on the street, but eventually, I’d find my way down there, leaving the best part for last: my trampoline.
On reflection, I was a bit obsessed with the 4-mile goal. Some days, after hearing some particularly bad news report, for example, I’d just drop everything and announce to the gang, “Gotta jump,” and I’d go down there. I was jumping for physical and spiritual strength. I think some part of me believed jumping would save my life. Which I needed to do. For my family.
Sometimes I’d look up to see my two young adult daughters getting high on the deck and they’d wave down to me. Those were those early pandemic days, when, as far as I was concerned, we all had permission to do whatever we wanted, as long as it didn’t hurt anyone else. Strange times call for strange measures. Smoking was their release; jumping was mine.
I was jumping for physical and spiritual strength. I think some part of me believed jumping would save my life.
In January, 10 months into the pandemic, both of our daughters moved out. Our older daughter returned to her post-college independent living; the younger went to college. My husband and I went from having a full house to a very quiet house, from having this really intense and intimate time of family dinners and everyone staying close to home to sending our two precious children out into a world where there was still a pandemic. But they were young adults. They needed to go; it was time for them to go. Right off, I missed them. I kept jumping. This was the secret to my sanity and a distraction from my aching heart.
And then it broke. My trampoline. One moment I was flying up, touching the tips of our tulip poplar trees — the next, I was down and sinking with a dull clunk. One of the metal bars that held the circular netting, the surface on which I jumped, had bent dramatically. My trampoline was no longer a flat surface. My trampoline was listing starboard. My first thought was, oh well, I’m really glad that happened at the end of that great jump and not at the beginning. My second thought was, I’m really lucky I didn’t get hurt. And my third thought was: Oh. I guess that’s the end of an era. It’s been a good run and it is time to say goodbye to my trampoline.
I climbed down and walked sadly up to the house. I told my husband what had happened. I’m a big girl, I thought, I’m not going to cry about it. There are bigger problems in the world today than one woman and her broken trampoline.
The next day I caught my husband in the act of researching trampolines. “They are too expensive,” I said. And anyway, we’ll probably be downsizing. Who knows if we’ll ever have a yard with this kind of privacy again?”
He said, “But it makes you happy. You are out there every day.”
I called the company that made the trampoline and asked if they had any deals.
The woman said, “We don’t have any sales right now. Trampolines are in high demand.” With sympathy, she asked, “Hon, how old are your kids?”
I paused and said, "Fifty-seven?”
She said, “Oh, it’s for you?”
“Well, it used to be for our kids, but now they’ve moved out, so, yeah, it’s just for me,” I said. “But I use it almost every day.”
She looked up our model of trampoline and confirmed that it was 14 years old, then said, “I’ll see what I can do.”
She put me on hold for a bit and I waited hopefully. When she returned, she said, “So this is what we’re gonna do. We’re going to put one together for you, but the pieces will be shipped from various places. These are leftovers, see. That’s why we can do the price cut. You’ll get five packages. Two from California, two from Texas and one from New Jersey. But here’s the deal. Your previous one was 14 feet in diameter. This one will only be 10. And the bar covers will be blue while the spring covers will be green. Is that OK? Can you put this together yourself?”
I said, “Yes, yes and yes.”
My husband and I took the old trampoline apart. I kissed it before we began. It was revelatory to see that every piece of metal was rotted out. Once we’d dragged all the heavy pieces up to the street, there was a circle of rust where my trampoline used to be. I was lucky that the whole thing hadn’t collapsed and enveloped me. Though, I supposed dying mid-jump wouldn’t be a bad way to go, compared to other ways.
When the boxes all arrived, my husband helped me drag the pieces down to the yard and together we built the thing. Once we were done, he said, “Try it out.”
I kissed him and I kissed the trampoline and I climbed up. Yes, it was a bit smaller, and I wondered if I might feel claustrophobic, but I didn’t. Because beyond the netting, there was still the whole world to see. Lots of grass and tall trees. And above, the sky was still very high. The jump was good. In fact, the jump was even better than before. He took a video and sent it to our girls.
I’m less obsessed now. I’ve loosened up about the 4-miles-every-day thing, but I’m still down there jumping several times a week. I jump no matter the weather or the season. In the summer, I wait for the shady time of day. In the autumn, I catch falling leaves while jumping. This is good luck. After it snows, I shovel it. After a spring rain, it is particularly bouncy.
I jump no matter the weather or the season. In the summer, I wait for the shady time of day. In the autumn, I catch falling leaves while jumping. This is good luck. After it snows, I shovel it. After a spring rain, it is particularly bouncy.
Some days, when I feel a strain in my lower back, I take a break and do heat therapy. I have a friend who is a runner who has told me about her back challenges. I used to wonder why she kept running. Now I understand. Some days you just need to run. Or jump. Or do whatever you do that feels so damn good.
Sometimes I’m down there jumping, and my husband will come down with the puppy, who is now 2, but still a pup. He’ll throw sticks into the stream and the pup will chase them. And while I’m jumping, I’ll glance over and appreciate them. And sometimes, I’ll catch him looking over and appreciating me.
Why do I jump? I’ve been told it’s not the norm for a woman approaching 60. It’s super fun, is all I can say. It makes me feel light, like I’m flying. I’m not doing any fancy tricks — don’t get me wrong. I’m just going up and down and around in circles and sometimes kicking my feet up to my butt, depending on what I’m listening to. Sometimes I sing. I’m fully aware that my jumping days are numbered. This is one of the reasons I jump. I jump because I can and because it brings me joy and because, when I am jumping, I feel so very grateful to be alive.