You know something is important to you when just the mention of it can flush your mind with memories that all make you smile. For me, that is the old brown swing set in my parents back yard. I can’t remember a day that it wasn’t sitting back there and being used by happy children and adults. Just to clarify, this wasn’t one of those big Rainbow swing sets with a canopy, curly slide, and rock climbing wall. My swing set was made with love from my grandpa and for his grandchildren. It had four spots a swing or toy could be attached and one small landing area with a built in wood ladder on either side to get up to it. For awhile, we had two swings, a hanging parallel bar, and rings. Eventually we got a glider and would rotate the other toys around depending on what we wanted to play with. It feels as though through all the changes in my family and life, the swing set has really never changed and I love that. It has too many happy memories built into it that replacing it would be a shame.
I remember before I knew how to swing, my older sister would let me sit on their laps and we pretended to be a “spider” with 8 “legs” flying through the air. Once I learned how to swing on my own I would look over to my brother Matt and wish I was brave enough to jump off in midair like he was. We would swing for hours, Matt and I, trying to get just high enough to snag a leaf off the tree. We kept at it, and as soon we grew tall enough, it became a real sport for us. Mom would sometimes come out and give me an underdog as she pushed me higher and higher. If it was up to me I would have never let her stop. I liked to pretend the glider was my horse and I would compete in races with myself. My brothers and I had fights over who could use which swing or be on the glider, but in the end there was always enough room for all of us to have a place to play.
As I got older and had friends to play with, we usually picked the swing set for our main headquarters. Anything from building bird houses with mud up on the landing, to using the swing set as a jail for our games of flashlight tag. We would try our luck with the balance beam portion of the swing set which consisted of climbing to the top beam and walking across it. Often my attempts were halted by Mom, but Matt somehow got away with it quite often. There was a particularly fun day I recall when several of my church friends were all playing on the swings with me. I was sitting next to Stephanie and we were having a competition to see who could swing the very highest. We never found out who won because just as she had built momentum enough to be going higher than me, the chain on the old swing snapped and she fell. She wasn’t hurt and it turned into a good laugh joking about how her weight had done it. (Stephanie was quite short and petite, so it really was just a joke that she found funny too.)
Time went on and Dad did repairs every now and then. Everything from replacing a rusty old swing, to having us kids repaint it every few years. I hit my teen years and stopped “playing” on the swing set. Instead, anytime I was sad or lonely I went for a long swing and that always helped. I felt inspired when I sat there and thought about life. It was my thinking place of solitude. High school came around I would bring a blanket and sit on the landing to read my Shakespeare play or do my math. I eventually met a guy and I would sit on the landing looking up at the stars as we talked on the phone into the late hours of the night. There was nowhere else I could think of to go at night to be alone and still feel safe. The swing set became my safe haven.
Life has gotten away with me and now I don’t live near my parents house, but the swing set is by no means forgotten. Nieces and nephews, the great grand children of the swing set’s maker, spend countless hours out in the yard on the swings. My Mom bought a used slide to have Dad install and he even added on guard rails. Knowing my family, there will never be a lack of small children who play on the swing set at dad and mom’s house. And I hope that they will treasure it just as much as I did.