Growing up, I was that kid that was always outside.
And if there was a sport involved, I wanted in. Particularly when it came to baseball.
Most days, we would make due with what we had. A borrowed bat, an old glove, a tennis ball we swiped from mom’s stash. “Ten-ball” as we called it was a game that unfolded many days outside of our townhome.
When we weren’t chasing the ball over the fence, you could find the neighborhood kids at the basketball court or even (attempting) to play tennis at the courts up the street.
At some point around 12 or 13, though, I was introduced to croquet. Now, I would hardly call the act of hitting a ball through some wickets a “sport,” but it still required a bit of skill, patience and a lot of luck.
I am unsure who had the initial croquet set or where I first played it. But I was hooked and had to have one. I found a newspaper ad for sporting equipment after dinner one evening and informed my dad that a croquet set could be had for the low, low price of $35.
His response was so very dad-like: “OK. I’ll put the first $5 in and you can make payments on it until it’s paid off.” He went on to explain this foreign-to-me concept of layaway, which I remember at the time thinking was an absolute genius way to obtain virtually anything you wanted.
So off we went. I don’t even remember which “Mart” we shopped at (it was either a K or a Wal). We found the exact croquet set in the ad, took it back to “layaway” (I was even more blown away when I saw the depth and breadth of purchases behind the counter just waiting to go home after payoff) and put our first 5 bucks down.
Every few weeks, I would take another $5 to the Mart as I chipped away at the final price. I was fortunate enough to be working, even at that young age, flipping burgers and making tenderloins at a greasy spoon in Independence.
The day of my final payment was pure bliss. Dad and I lugged the enormous box out to his old, green New Yorker (a car we lovingly called “The Boat” and I would have to later navigate as I learned to drive) and went home with my prized possession.
It was mine and I bought it. It was a damn good feeling.
I am sure I shredded the box the second I got inside the house. Heck, I may not have even taken it in. Either way, the wickets were aligned in the familiar diamond-8 pattern and I banged on a few doors to implore the neighbor friends come out and take the set on its maiden voyage.
Before I knew it, we were playing daily, setting up tournament-style events and, when the games went well into dusk, flat out leaving the wickets in place and just resuming the next morning.
The set stayed at my parents when I bounced around to different colleges. It moved with me to apartments and homes, to Iowa and back, and finally to Lee’s Summit.
The wickets are bent. One was lost to the lawnmower. And I have no idea where the sixth mallet is.
Every now and then, Addy will ask to set up a few wickets in the front yard and play her “version” of croquet. And I am more than OK with that.
My hope is that she may want a new set of her own someday. And if layaway is still a thing, maybe we can recreate that most valuable lesson that I had 30 years ago: if you want it, work for it.
Editor's Note: John Beaudoin is a Lee's Summit resident and award winning writer and former newspaper publisher in the Lee's Summit community. Views and opinions expressed in his columns do not necessarily reflect those of Link 2 Lee's Summit, it's employees or any other guest contributors.