February 6, 2009

Boy in a Swing

When I'm sitting at my desk and look to the right there is a row of three large windows that take up most of the wall. Beyond the windows is a long expanse of grass, then a barbed-wire fence, behind which is a chainlink fence. Beyond that is a yard with a swingset and a house with a red door. All this I can see if I just look.

Today the air smells like springtime, a scent I've come to know as particular to my area. The winter air is still cool but has a different scent -- earthy, warmer, alive and inviting.

Today when I look out the window I see a boy sitting in the swing. His back is to me and he is alone, just swinging. Back and forth. Back and forth. He wears a blue jacket and no hat. His pants are too short and I can see his white socks above dark sneakers. He swings, staring straight ahead.

When I was eight or nine we moved from our small downtown to a bigger place in the country. It was a huge home next to a pond. My father subscribed to Mother Earth News and wanted to get back to nature. His big idea was to do things "more natural". He wanted to grow grapes to make wine, have a big garden, raise some chickens and ducks, have honeybees, fish.

My oldest brother was already gone. Married, moved to his own house. My middle brother was nearly ready to be out of school. Having much older siblings was a lot like being an only child and I was frequently sent off to entertain and amuse myself, a skill that became second-nature and which I continue to use to this day. Back then, before cable and satellite TV, before Internet and Gameboys, before cell phones and computers children went forth and amused themselves with sticks and rocks and dirt, bugs and dogs and puddles of filthy water.

Or if you were lucky, one day you came home to find your father installing a swing in a tree in your backyard next to the pond. Mine was yellow, a single strap of curved plastic at the end of chains that seemed a mile long. The branch my dad hooked the swing to was, I swear, 80 feet off the ground. Several times he measured to see if it was the right height for me.

I loved that swing more than any swing I've ever sat in. With the chains being so long I could swing in huge arcs that took forever to complete. On the upswings I could see out over the pond and the roof of the house. He only cleared enough around the swing so I wouldn't get whacked with branches and when I'd glide through the air on my swing it was like flying through the trees. I'd fly past branches and could see the places the squirrels and birds sit when I wasn't there swinging. It was an incredible sensation.

I think about this as I lean back and gaze at the boy on the swing outside my window. Back. Forth. Back.

The phone rings and someone is there telling me it's time to get back to my life. Moments later when I turn again toward the boy he is gone. The swing is still, as if he were never there in the first place.


  1. What a nice memory. I loved my old tree swing. It was a tire :) So much time spent dreaming that I could fly...thanks for bringing that memory back Wendy. It was great ♥

  2. Sweet story and memories. It's those simple memories that are the best, aren't they? Are kids like that nowadays? I think they miss out on a lot.

  3. All the more reason to shut off the electronics and kick the kids outside! :)

    Lovely post!

  4. So beautiful, Wendy. Have you ever considered what your dad was giving you in that swing? Freedom, independence, curiosity, a new way of looking at the world. Love. I know he'd be thrilled to know what precious memories it holds for you.

  5. I wish I could have watched Uncle Boyd installing that swing for you. It would be cool to have a few playful memories of him. In all of my interactions with him, he was so very serious.

    My dad has some pranking and playful stories about your dad. You should try to get him to tell them.


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