All of a sudden, the Seasonal Department at Target is full of hope and promise: Seeds! Spades! Lawn furniture! Your heart sings when you see it, because when Seasonal puts out the stuff for gracious outdoor living, you know spring can't be more than three months away.
There was a big new beautiful gazebo on display, and, in case you wondered who the heck would buy one of those in March, take note of the thumb I am currently pointing at my sternum. Trust me, I have experience in the world of gazebos.
I've bought five.
Gazebo Style #1 was made of wood, or some wood-like substance, or perhaps a synthetic material called "Wuud" that had been grown in a lab, cooked in huge vats and extruded into various consumer products like gazebos and dollar-store hammer handles.
After three years it rotted away from exposure to the elements, and I wished I had kept the manual. It must have said "WARNING. This outdoor structure is not designed for exposure to the outdoors, and should be disassembled and stored whenever there is the chance of rain or snow. Prolonged exposure to morning dew is not advised."
Eventually, it just dissolved. One day we had a bleached gazebo with strips of veneer peeling off, the next day there was just the fabric roof and a puddle of liquefied wuud. Chipmunks got stuck in it, trapped like ants in amber.
Gazebo Style #2: Metal, dude. Metal. When March rolled around there were metal gazebos in Seasonal. Nice looking, but it wasn't as substantial as the wuud gazebo. When the wind blew, it put on its travelin' shoes and lit out for the territories. More than once I looked in the backyard and found the gazebo upside down against the fence like some mad bull that had knocked itself unconscious battering its head against the bars of its cage.
It died during the first snowstorm; flakes built up on the roof — must have been hundreds of them — and the gazebo roof sagged, and the posts bent, and the horrible weight of .5 inches of snow made the entire structure collapse into a heap of cheap light metal that I actually moved to the boulevard by pushing it along with a can of compressed air.
Gazebo Style #3: Impressive Metal. Come the next March the store had a magnificent gazebo with great iron posts as thick as Caesar's thighs. It had a designer's name, too! Tommy Bobringer or Bobby Thomasing or something; never heard of him. Possibly a guy who made his name in jeans in New York in the '90s and had licensed his name to soap, spatulas and outdoor furniture.
It was so heavy UPS couldn't deliver it. I'd have to come to the warehouse to get it, UPS said. So much for their motto, "What can brown do for you?" I know, I know, it's my fault for not having a pickup truck in case I will have to transport bales of wire to fence the Back 40.
I did what any indignant person would do: I complained so much on Twitter the company sent two managers from the front office to haul the thing to my house, and all was good. The gazebo was magnificent. The wind came, and it stood its ground. The snow came, and it laughed.
Rather eerie, that.
A few years later we were away on vacation in the winter; snow came in heapin' helpin's, and the entire roof collapsed. My fault. Hadn't taken off the fabric roof, mostly because I couldn't. Getting the roof over the corners of the gazebo is like putting a Kevlar condom over a fire hydrant. If you manage to do it, it's there for keeps.
Gazebo Style #4: And now you say: Having learned your lesson, you bought a nice permanent wood gazebo, right? Hah! They're hideously expensive, and the design looks like we must have ice cream socials while men in straw boaters ride strange bikes and children chase hoops with sticks.
I bought another metal one, because by now I'm the old-school Hollywood star who marries seven times and insists he still believes in love.
Last November's early wet snow caught us all by surprise, and collapsed the entire roof beyond repair. So of course I was delighted to see the Seasonal Department had a new style with a new roof design that could actually, you know, take a winter or two. But I knew I had to order it now, because by the time I actually needed it, they would be sold out — because who could possibly want to buy a gazebo in May?
By then you should be thinking about back-to-school supplies.