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Front Porch: Timing just perfect for projects

The morning sun warms my legs as I write. A pair of white butterflies flit above the petunias, daisies and geraniums that overflow the planters. A slight breeze ruffles the pages of my book.

I’m in my happy place, otherwise known as the Great Gazebo.

Longtime readers might remember that while my husband and sons are ardent outdoorsmen, I’m mostly an indoor kind of gal. That changed this spring when we started planning for Zack’s graduation party.

Our ’70s era home had a rickety balcony attached to the back of the house. You couldn’t really call it a deck. We’ve long talked about building a proper deck, and Zack’s graduation gave Derek the deadline he needed.

While Derek hauled in wood and bags of concrete, I finished a significant magazine project. When the check arrived, I knew exactly what to buy – the Great Gazebo.

We’d seen this beauty at Costco and marveled at its size, attachable tile counters, planter racks and most of all, its sturdiness.

You see, we’ve had quite a succession of gazebos and awnings fly through our backyard over the years.

Yes. Fly.

Twenty years ago, when we bought the house, we had two small boys. We purchased a green and white striped fabric awning with aluminum poles. It came in a box optimistically labeled “Garden Gazebo.”

It lasted all of two months before a hot July wind blew it into our neighbor’s backyard.

A couple of years later we tried again. By this time we’d acquired another son and a splintery old wooden picnic table. I was determined we’d dine outdoors – in the shade.

This time we decided to purchase an aluminum and plastic model. It lasted two summers until one of our sons decided to climb it. Thankfully, the only thing broken was the gazebo.

The following year undaunted, but a bit dismayed, we invested in the sturdiest fabric and metal contraption available. Even better, this gazebo advertised that under the special mesh fabric, the air would be up to 5 degrees cooler!

That summer Spokane broke several high temperature records, including multiple days of 100-degree weather. But the gazebo lived up to its advertising. It really was cooler within.

Alas, cooler doesn’t necessarily mean able to withstand gusting wind. During a fearsome August thunder and lightning storm our lovely, shady refuge collapsed. This time the wreckage stayed in our yard. Well, most of it anyway.

Imagine how thrilled we were to discover the Taj Mahal of gazebos at Costco in May. The box proclaimed it weighed 550 pounds! Its heft – and the fact that Derek planned to cement it in place – gave us confidence. We plunked our money down and hauled it home.

The following weekend Derek assembled the structure. The instructions said it would take five men to put it together. Turns out it only takes three – if they’re Norwegian.

Once the gazebo was up I set about furnishing and decorating it. We filled the planters with flowers I chose based on the color of their blossoms. They still live despite my ignorance about the care and sustainability of the flowers I’d selected.

With comfy furniture, a fireplace and beautiful lights, our outdoor living room became a shaded refuge for Derek as he sweated buckets constructing the Delightful Deck. He’d pore over plans in its cool confines before sawing cedar planks and hewing handrails.

He finished the deck just in time for Zack’s graduation party.

The true value of the Delightful Deck and the Great Gazebo has been revealed these past few months. We’ve hosted many backyard parties. Outdoor entertaining is fun and easy.

While time spent with friends is wonderful, time with family is even better. Saturday night Derek and our oldest sons smoked cigars in the Great Gazebo and recited favorite lines from Three Stooges movies. The promise of s’mores lured our two younger sons outdoors. I stood in the shadows of the deck and watched them for a bit. Their smiles were illuminated by the soft glow of the fireplace and their laughter echoed in the night.

So many times this summer my husband has said that he wishes he’d completed these backyard projects earlier – when all our sons were still at home. But I don’t share that wish.

Our oldest sons live on their own. Zack is busy with work and starts college in a few weeks. Sam will be an eighth grader this fall. His high school years are just around the corner. Time with our kids is precious.

But this I know, the lights from the gazebo beckon them to come and sit awhile. Away from video games, cellphones, and work, they laugh and joke. They roast marshmallows and they don’t rush off. And that is something worth waiting for.

Contact Cindy Hval at Her previous columns are available online at columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.