The Swing

On June 10, 2009 by Aimee

swingIn a small backyard, of a medium sized house, there exists an old, wooden swing set; the swing having been missing for quite a number of years. The contraption itself isn’t anything to write home about. It’s missing it’s cover. The slide is a simple one, with a single bump in the middle, making a quick slide down something more than just a straight run into the dirt. There are legos nailed into the wood; a remnant of the older boy’s quest to be a carpenter one day — decorating the square structure in his own childish way.

The days of play on the rungs and sliding down the silver, metal pole continue, as a new generation of children grabs hold and it becomes their fort; with its faults and all. But the swing … the missing swing is something the new group aren’t ready to go without. For days, weeks and months, they are only minutely satisfied with swinging on the Tarzan rope … on the other side; the side with only one, long, black, splintery feeling rope hanging from the center of the wood that juts out from the right side.

But play they do; in sun and wind and sometimes rain; in heat and cold and the warmth of spring days … making do with their less than stellar equipment. Until, one day …

“Mom, can we get a swing for the swingset?” asked Abby; quickly followed up, in a near perfect stereo voice by her identical, twin sister Emily.

After the last attempt by their big brother Joseph, to create form and function from the old swing, found amongst the too-tall and wild grass of the back hill, getting a new swing wasn’t out of the question.

Joseph, in his quest to be the best big brother available to his sisters; something he does only when he’s really motivated by some unknown force of the universe, had strapped a series of plastic wire ties together to create a bit of a hanging contraption for the swing. Attaching one side of the wire ties to the swing and the other to the two hanging chains, he created a masterpiece; one that required the use of a helmet if any attempt to swing on it was made. His own weight broke the ties quickly. The feather light build of his sisters though didn’t daunt him in his attempts.

The swing, was nearly perfect, or so it seemed, until the moment that any weight at all was put upon it (thus the need for the helmet) as the sound of snapping plastic and the thud to the ground was relatively immediate. Perhaps a pillow to catch the fall would have been better.

“Yes, let’s get a new swing,” said the girls’ Mom.

Replacing a swing certainly couldn’t be a difficult task, right? Two long hanging ropes and a semi-flexible seat. No way could that be a task of more than two minutes effort.

With Joseph and his two friends in tow, the group made their way to the local home improvement store, Lowes in this case, to get the seat for the current ropes; or that was their Mom’s plan anyway.

The swingset aisle was at the very back of the store, forcing the group to walk through the entire store and offering the boys an opportunity to be mesmerized by the saws and hammers, construction-like equipment and various hand and electrical tools that any twelve year old boy would love.

“Mom, can I buy a hammer? I could, you know, like, fix up some stuff at home. And besides, you owe me, like a hundred and fifty bucks! Actually, I think it’s a hundred and sixty-five now,” said Joseph in a voice that was strong enough to be serious and timid enough to know the outcome before the answer was even given.

“Uh, no,” responded his Mom.

As the group meandered through the store, they scanned each of the aisles until they reached the very back of the store and saw, in all its glory,

“The swingset section!” exclaimed Abby.

An aisle completely devoted to slides and swings, ropes and ladders; all made for outdoor play equipment. And there, in the middle of it all were two swings; one green and one yellow.

“Can we get a yellow one?” “Can we get a green one?” the girls asked at exactly the same time. Without question, the winning color was the cheaper of the two — by a mere fifteen dollars.

“We’ll get the green one, said Mom knowing that eventually they’d both be happy but knowing an explanation of the financial difference probably wasn’t going to do much good on four year olds.

The troupe regrouped at the cash registers, paid and departed, returning home just minutes later, with two extremely excited little girls running quickly to the yard, yelling loudly that they were ready to swing!

Removing the remnants of the old swing was the easy part. A quick slip of the metal loop over another loop and it was removed; gone forever, discarded, somewhat sadly into the trash. And the new swing was ready to be placed. The girls looked at it longingly, beginning to fight with each other over who would swing first.

“I get to swing first,” said Mom with a big grin.

After accidentally staring into the sun two or three times while looking up into the metal loops on the wood bar of the swing set, Mom finally decided that the best course of action was probably brute force. She’d already determined that the new, beautiful, green swing wasn’t going to fit exactly the same way as the old one. Of course, with the difference in age of the old and new swing, a new protective coating was added to the swing’s metal chain, making it just millimeters thicker and quickly making it more difficult to get through the small opening made for the old chain.

“Go figure,” exclaimed Mom. “Here goes nothing.”

Placing both of the chains onto the edge of the metal hooks and pulling with all her might, they remained in tact, staying easily above the metal loops and not falling through. A helmet wasn’t all that would be needed if any swinging were attempted with the swing in this condition.

“Ok guys, we’ve got to try again,” said Mom, wondering how on earth she was supposed to get a metal chain through a metal loop when there was just no space to make it go through.

“Take off the coating,” suggested Joseph who’d returned from hanging out with the guys to help, or so he said. Not a half bad idea though Mom, but rather than removing it, she simply began to slide the metal pieces back and forth against each other to remove only the coating in one area — the one that needed to fit through the metal loop.

After what seemed like an eternity, the loop fell through and the chain was permanently attached!

“Cool! Though well never get it out again!” Mom laughed.

And on to the second rope; which proved quite a bit more problematic and took twice as long as the first. She slid the pieces back and forth and back and forth with limited success, wondering if perhaps it’d be safe as is; knowing there was no way she’d actually believe that.

So she continued until, in a moment of wonder, she took one foot, stood onto the seat and with full body force, took one small jump and the metal popped right through into the loop!

“Yeah!!” exclaimed the girls, who’d been running around singing “We got a swing” to their own tuneless tune throughout the endeavor.

Before Mom could even take a seat into the new swing, Abby jumped right onto it and Mom saw what she’d hoped wouldn’t be the case; the swing was too long. As if the project couldn’t get any worse!

With just ten chain links to work with for shortening, Mom again went through the sliding of a new piece on the left into the metal loop and had to repeat with the right to no avail. Knowing the swing was “good enough” now as it was in fact secure, the girls jumped eagerly onto the swing; now at the perfect height from the ground; just low enough for their toes to reach, but high enough that to swing with their feet under themselves they didn’t touch the ground.

By this point, the sun, which had been high in the sky at the start of the project was beginning to set and thus a few minutes of pushing each girl and taking turns on the swing ensued. One after the other, yelling at each other that they needed more time; slowing to a stop by dragging their feet encrusting their toes in the dirt beneath then, they swung and swung; all with pushes from Mom, from each other or from their big brother.

The same pattern continued for several days, perhaps even weeks as Mom, Dad, Joseph or other neighborhood friends offered to give them pushes on the swing. Swinging wasn’t without explanation of the motion required to make the swing go by itself; not in the least. Mom tried. Dad tried. Big brother tried. Friends tried. The girls just hadn’t yet mastered the skill of pulling themselves backward to go forward and moving their feet at just the right time to ensure the momentum was followed through so they could propel themselves forward again and build speed and height. No, they just didn’t get it. Until …

On a sunny, warm, spring day, in the middle of April, giggling was heard in the yard. The giggling turned to laughter and loud, huge exclamations of springtime happiness. Not knowing what could be the cause of such silliness, Dad looked through the window noticing that Abby was swinging … all by herself.

Her hair whipped in the wind. She pulled back on the ropes, kicking her legs out. As she reach the pivotal point in her forward motion, she quickly pulled her legs back and leaned forward, allowing the motion of the swing to pull her back. Her movements were quick, seemless and fluid and the height and speed of the swing grew quickly and easily. Her head hit the leaves of the tree as she ascended.

Not to be outdone by her sister, Emily quickly snagged the swing for herself and after having assessed her sister’s movements, and convincing her sister to give her one quick push, executed the same movements flawlessly. Laughter rang out from the yard, completely filling the air with the happiness of children that continues to this day.

Mom and Dad grinned at each other as they realized how big their girls were getting; how grown up though not yet even five years old; how they were no longer dependent upon them for their favorite past time, swinging on the swing.

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