I have long had a fascination with swingsets. As a child, I have vivid memories of school recess, pumping my legs as hard as I could, all of us competing to reach the leaves of the trees. I once disturbed a bee’s nest on the swingset in my backyard and was swarmed by yellowjackets and, despite the bitter stings, it is still where I went the next morning, swinging as high as I could, making up rhyming songs as I soared. In my novel Spared, my favorite scene takes place, oddly enough, on a set of swings. And just a few weeks ago, after learning that a local restaurant had a one hour wait, I shrugged and told Tyler that while we waited, we could go to Carroll Park and swing in the dark while the kids weren’t there. And we did.
Yesterday, I went to a 70th birthday party for my mother’s cousin. Her home has the most wonderful tree swing and I used to play on it all the time as a child. Tyler and I left the party to find the tree swing, a little wooden plank held up with bright orange chains. I went on it with my little cousin, Nicole, laughing in the background and Tyler pointing out how high I was going. Nicole bragged, as I might have at her age, that she could swing so high she could touch the pole of the tent where the party was held with her little foot.
A few minutes later a little girl I didn’t know came to join us with Nicole’s brother, Robbie. I quickly left the swing and watched as Robbie pushed the girl so high that she, too, bragged excitedly about her ability to touch the pole with her feet. It reminded me of my school recess competitions, trying to touch the tree leaves. Meanwhile, we had discovered an ugly cicada crawling on the bark of the tree and Robbie, now distracted from the swingset, was daring us to grab the bug and squeeze its guts.
The little girl’s mother came out shortly to reprimand the girl for swinging so high, and soon after, Robbie and Nicole’s mother came out to scold Robbie for being the one to push her on the swing. She was too little, of course, to go so high up. Then she saw Tyler and I marvelling over the ugly cicada with Nicole. She said, “Oh, I didn’t realize there were some adults out here watching. You didn’t see how high she was going?”
I did of course. So high she could touch the pole.
Later, Tyler and I discussed what awful ‘adults’ we were for not realizing the appropriate height for swinging. We joked that if children were left in our care they would end up on the roof of the house. Well, they wanted to go up there and we thought, why not?
I guess I just don’t always see the danger of swinging so high.