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A timely investment: Yard projects with your niece, nephew

POSTED: February 18, 2009 12:06 a.m.

If you’re looking for an investment that has a guaranteed rate of return and pays handsome dividends, I have one for you.

Spend a little time with a child.

My niece and nephew, ages 6 and 8, came to visit this weekend. Like too many children of that age, they spend way too much time in front of a TV, and I wanted to do something about that.

On Sunday, after the ground had dried from the rains of early Saturday, we set out to complete a couple of projects.

High on the list was replacing the mailbox. The old mailbox was beyond repair. It had been leaning for years. I tried to stick it back in the ground, and there wasn’t enough pole left to do that.

I took my nephew, Austin, with me on my two trips to the big box home store. Despite my best efforts, I have yet to quite make a project happen without two trips. One trip is to get the main thing. The second, about a half hour later, is to get what I forgot.

We had to get some concrete mix in a 50-pound bag. Austin doesn’t weigh 100 pounds soaking wet, but he was determined to carry the bag, and I let him.

The same was true later when we returned for the wooden post. It was nearly two feet taller than the boy, but he wanted to lift it and that was fine.

I couldn’t find my level, so I borrowed one from the world’s greatest neighbor, Claude Bagwell.

Austin never had seen a level, and I explained how it worked.

I started digging the hole, and he was in charge of measuring how deep it was. There was a math lesson there somewhere.

When it came time to set the post, Austin was in charge of leveling. He did a good job, and if you drive by, it’s a pretty straight post, if I say so myself.

I let him have his turn at digging with the post-hole diggers, and he helped me spread out the cement and wet it when the time came.

Later, the project was planting a few potted plants in the front yard. Gracie got in the act and wanted to help dig the hole. I agreed.

The truth is, I probably added about an hour to the projects, and there was a lot of dirt that ended up on the walkway. I have a little pinched place where my fingers wound up between the handles of the post-hole diggers when I was trying to give a little direction.

I don’t know if they’ll even notice when they visit again that they had a small part in the shaping of our new front yard, but I hope they will.

I certainly got a lot of satisfaction out of having them join me for our outdoor adventure.

Some of my greatest treasures are memories of time spent with uncles, aunts, parents and a grandfather, all long gone. At the time, it might have seemed insignificant, but they are indelibly etched in my mind.

One day, another hole, one that is about six feet deep, will be dug somewhere, and they’ll plant me there.

I only can hope that Austin and Gracie then will remember time spent in their uncle’s front yard.

Harris Blackwood is community editor of The Times. His columns appear Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 770-718-3423.



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