Childhood: Memories on a Swing

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Swings are the epitome of nostalgia. What memory is more representative of childhood than the feeling of swaying through the air, legs pumping back and forth, head thrown back, with your hair flying in the breeze? There was the graduation from the toddler bucket seat to the wooden swing, and then to the tire swing when you were big enough. Next was the “bigger kid” swing with the plastic seat that molded to your body, with long chains reaching up to the sky.

Swinging starts with your parents. They just want to get you out of the house, but you’re too small to walk or climb. As soon as you can hold yourself upright, you’re plopped into the baby swing – a circular enclosure with holes for your legs. Your fingers are curled around the chains, and you’re told to hold on tight. Your parents pull you back, gently at first and not too high, and then they let you go. You squeal with delight. Soon, you’re begging for the backyard version, which hangs from yellow ropes and has a movable barrier that you can lift up and slide out of on your own.

Grandma rocks you on the wooden porch swing while she drinks lemonade and you lick a Popsicle on hot summer nights. It’s not about the sensation; it’s about the comfort. You rest your head on her lap while she tells you all about her childhood. Eyelids heavy, you rock to sleep.

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In elementary school, you eye the tire swing, the one that hangs horizontally and is suspended by three ropes. There’s something about the fact that you can climb on and swing with all of your friends that’s especially enticing. Swinging with a team is the beginning of daredevil swinging antics. You take turns winding up the swing, twisting and twisting the rope, then letting it go to twirl like a top. The swing takes on a life of its own, while the ground and the sky spin in stereo. It takes your breath away.

Impossible to ignore, perched on the playground like a skyscraper, is the dinosaur of them all: the giant metal swing set. An a-frame with a row of swings, it’s so simple, yet so enticing. It’s where the Big Kids hang out. They pump their legs, jumping off at the peak of their swing. You can’t get too close for fear that they will crash into you and knock you flat. You wonder how their momentum doesn’t carry them all the way around, taking them up and over the beam to which the chains are securely fastened. It’s one of God’s mysteries.

You wait for an empty seat, and an empty one next to it to make sure nobody bumps into you. Moving tentatively you lay your belly over the seat and scoot back and forth to get your bearings. Before too long you’re sitting upright on the swing, learning how your own motion can propel you skyward. You pump your legs forward and backward, close your eyes, and reach for the sky.

As much as you love the playground, you want a swing of your own. The Norman Rockwellesque vision of a wooden swing hanging on ropes from a tree is too romantic for you, now that you’ve conquered the tiger of them all. You need thrill, complexity, and drama. Then, the day arrives when your parents take you into the backyard to show you their surprise: a swing set complete with slide, tree house, climbing wall, and—dangling in the middle of it all—two brand new, untouched swings. Heaven on wheels.

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Rosa Scully has always loved Christmas and currently works as a content contributor for Santa’s Quarters, a retailer of artificial Christmas trees and other Christmas decorations.

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