After Mr. Wonderful and I built our home at Kennebunk Beach two decades ago, we added a 10’x12’ outbuilding which I immediately dubbed “my garden house.” Bob soon nailed up a hand-painted sign, Val’s Valley, that still hangs above the front window. We painted the little house tan, then added white trim and a windowbox that held cascading petunias. 

Before long the little house was filled to the ceiling with beach toys -- red and blue plastic buckets, pink and yellow sand shovels, starfish and sandcastle molds, just for starters. Yellow Tonka pickup trucks, two Nantucket Beach Buggies, a full-size aqua wagon with detachable caboose, two adult bikes, and a striped beach umbrella got squeezed in somehow.

As our Grands grew older, boogie boards and skim board lined joined the collection. Two collapsible picnic tables for the beach were propped up beneath a variety of sand chairs hanging from hooks. My gardening tools and a wheelbarrow filled a corner of the little house. 

When the kids were here, we made lunch around 10:30, wrapping egg salad and PBandJ sandwiches in aluminum foil, then stuffing them, along with potato chips, sodas, watermelon slices and lemonade, into the mesh side pockets of the beach buggies. Off we went for a fun day in the sun at Mothers Beach.


Last week Mr. W. and I noticed that the white trim on the garden house was peeling and that the once-vibrant tan paint was looking sallow. We went to Port Hardware, bought brushes and paint, got out our step stools and went to work. 


A few hours later, the exterior of the garden house looked perky and bright. Inside told a different story.

The boogie boards are covered in cobwebs. The adult bikes have flat tires and rusty chains. (I fell off my bike three summers ago and haven’t ridden since.) The aqua wagon and caboose now hold huge bags of Gardener’s Gold Potting Soil and Miracle-Gro.   


The once-vibrant sun umbrella has faded to pastel. I could have sworn that we used it all the time, slathering on the 30 as we sat in its shade, but apparently not. Our dermatologist, Dr. Skin, shudders every time he inspects Mr. W’s and my legs and arms.

The bag of sand toys has been pushed to the rear wall. Several years ago, I gave the Tonka trucks to one of our lawn guys for his little boys. The portable picnic tables are now only used on hot summer evenings for “cocktails at the beach” with our pals. 

Sleep-away summer camps, baseball games, lax schedules, an Eagle Scout project and babysitting jobs fill our Grands’ days. As they should. 

Even the yellow plastic sign, stating Caution! Kids at Play, that once stood guard at the head of the driveway, has been retired to the top tier of a shelving unit. Oh how I wish I could still put that sign out! 


But like my wonderful grandchildren and our little garden house, everything around here is showing its age. As are we.