The Swing

Robert Louis Stevenson

How do you like to go up in a swing,

Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
River and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside–

Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown–
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!

The Sparkle Girl loves swings.  She loves, loves, loves swings.

When she was a tiny baby she spent hours sleeping in her swing.  Sometimes bundled up tight with the noise machine tucked in next to her.  LOVED IT.  I was usually laying next to it on the couch in a haggard crispy mess. Popping awake only long enough to stuff the pacifier back in her mouth.  Good times.

I used to love swings too (now they make me sea sick).  I remember this poem and how it ignited my imagination of going up sooooooo high in the swing and all the amazing things you could see from such a height.  I would imagine the vast fields and pretty rooftops.  The tops of the trees full of birds’ nests.

We used to lean back as far as we could.  I would watch enviously as my friends with long hair could lean back far enough for it to drag on the ground.  Even after we learned to pump with our legs we begged adults to push us higher and higher.  Underdogs were best (running under the swing as they pushed). Occasionally our fingers would get pinched in the chain links or our hair would get caught.  A small price to pay for that exquisite pleasure.

There was the myth of the older kid at another school who swung so high he went over the top. We all tried to do it well after we knew it was only a legend.  Sometimes at a friend’s house we could swing so fast that it would lift a leg of the structure–a feeling that was scary and thrilling all at once.  Some daring kids would jump out of the swing while it was still flying high.  Usually they were OK but there were the occasional mishaps.

In college I worked at a YMCA day camp.  Two summers in a row the same kid broke his arm in the same spot while playing on the swings.  My sister was unfortunate enough to be riding a tire swing at our friend’s house when the rope broke sending her sailing.  I think her pride was hurt more than anything else.

As we got older we began to do “dangerous” things in swings.  Twisting them tight and then spinning furiously after we let go.  Delirious as it re-twisted the other way from the momentum.  We would play bumper swings.  A fun game that involved grabbing the big leg of the structure and letting go, bashing into the person next to us.  An activity that I’m sure would be actively discouraged on today’s elementary school playgrounds (if they even still had swings).

When we go to the park the Sparkle Girl makes a bee line right to the swings yelling “SWING SWING SWING” at the top of her voice.  When I think she is getting tired of it I ask her if she’s done.  Usually she shakes her head and says “more swing”.  She loves the wind in her face, the fast motion, being way up high. And who can blame her, really?

At our preschool co-op there are kids that spend much of their time on the playground on the swings.  Our arms get tired pushing these kids higher and higher–up with the birds and clouds and airplanes.  They love it and only reluctantly give up their coveted spot to another toddler.  We have to invoke the ABC method— singing a round of the ABCs, when the song is over it’s time to switch.  Amazingly it works every single time.

Swings are one of those sweet pieces of childhood.  And have been so for hundreds of years. For much of that time it was the only way to safely leave the earth and sail in the air.  Ever since someone first tied a rope to a tree branch kids and grownups alike have felt the peacefulness and excitement of “going up in the air and down”.

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