When my kids were little, the back yard contained a haphazard collection of toys, bikes, balls, swings, sand boxes, stray shoes, discarded bandages, frog collections, and roaming neighbor kids. After the children grew up and acquired their own child-friendly yards, I moved into a smaller house and designed a grown-up patio, complete with an unsafe water feature, a dangerous fire pit, and an outdoor refrigerator stocked with wine and beer. There are advantages to getting older.
This patio also has a hot tub, and Studley and I don't need to be burdened with the necessity to wear swim suits. We can soak while sipping cocktails and not fret that a child might see such a haunting vision and possibly be scarred for life. There is a light-covered grape arbor leading to a rusty bench, a granite-topped bar, a working replica of Manneken Pis, and an open fish pond. Obviously, this patio is for adults only, thank you.
We enjoy the patio almost every evening. Given the choice to go out to dinner or a party, we'd rather sit outside with a cheese plate and an adult beverage. That's a luxury we didn't have when our children lived at home, we worked full-time jobs, and we learned at bedtime that it was our turn to furnish snacks for school the next day. Canned frosting hastily smeared between graham crackers was my go-to treat.
You can create your own midlife patio, too, with a few helpful tips:
1. Collect photographs of patios you like. Attend home and garden exhibits for ideas and local advice. You may have rules through your homeowners association, so check before you build any giant structures.
2. Establish a budget and consider how much you can do yourself. Remember you're saving money by not paying for school clothes, field trips, prom dresses, and counseling. Allocate those funds to your midlife patio.
3. Consider removing the grass. You probably won't be camping or swinging in your yard anymore, so create a design that uses less water and labor. There's no grass in my back yard because the landscape incorporates pavers, boulders, sturdy bushes, and flower pots with automatic drip lines.
4. Invest in quality patio furniture. It's tempting to buy the cheap plastic chairs from discount stores, but they need to be replaced regularly. If you intend to spend hours on your patio, it's best to do so on padded, swivel chairs or recliners.
5. Consider a fish pond. We have Koi and goldfish, and they make the perfect pets. No mess to clean up, no kennel needed, and they hibernate all winter. Too bad kids aren't like that.
I do miss the laughter and commotion of my energetic children. But now my grandkids have their own fun yards to play in, and we visit them often to join in the activities. Then it's always nice to come home, light the fire pit, and talk in the private retreat of our empty nest. And, there is no need to pick up any toys or dog poop.
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