A Swinger’s Perspective
……(Circa March, 1972)
Ah, I love that smell, especially when it starts to get warm; a slightly dusty, metallic scent, unparalleled by anything else. The swing set! Part of the freedom of being in the second grade is moving out of the little-kid playground onto the bigger-kid playground. Of course we have to stay clear of the monsters in the upper grades, but they are kept caged up on the other side of the school; out of both eye and ear shot.
I don’t want to get bigger. They don’t have a swing set on their playground.
This swing set is the best. There are no harnesses for the seats and the structural frame is enormous. The metal super-structure and the chain link attached to the swings make my hands smell deliciously “playground-y” for the remainder of the day…Unless of course I am forced to wash them.
Don’t Try This at Home (…or at School)
I love to swing…Flying like a bird and yelling at my classmates to “Get out of my bathtub!” when our flight vehicles wind up in unison. Unfortunately we have to take turns. So, once I’ve been ousted from my flying machine, I have a couple of options. Taunt the flyers from the ground or taunt them from above. I choose above! (And by the way “taunting” is such a negative adult word. My role is simply to add color-commentary to everyone’s experience).
Immediately, the words “double-dog-dare” blurt from one of the kids standing around waiting for their turn once I state my desire to scale the monolith…
Fine! In order to fulfill my role, all I have to do is shimmy up one side of the A-framed structure like a monkey climbing a palm tree, until the two poles are closer together. Then I walk my hands up further by swinging from side to side. Once I get close to the top I swing my legs over the main cross bar that holds the swings and pull myself up and over onto my perch…
…Again, ever so grateful for the shorts under my dress.
Victoriously, I sit high above the daredevil flyers below…Exhilaration flooding my system.
This process gets a lot of attention. My one friend, who constantly channels Jiminy Cricket, is telling me that this might be a bad idea. Other friends cheer me on and the Yard-Duty ladies seem to be cheering too. Well, I think they’re cheering. Whatever they’re doing includes running, waving their hands and yelling something…but I’m not sure what. They speak “adult” and sometimes their messaging gets lost in translation.
The view from on top of the swing set is amazing. I can see way past the school fence and the breeze feels good up here. Conversations between me and the aviators below range in topics but mostly they are based on phrases from me like:
“Is that as high as you can go?”,
“Can’t you swing any faster?”
and “Jump! Jump now!?”
On the ground, most of the kids have lost interest and have gone back to their games of chase. Strangely however, the adults have not.
One of the Yard-Duty ladies has decided it’s time for me to get down.
She thinks I’m going to fall.
Falling is not an option I have considered. My reason for being up here is to taunt my fellow aviators and see the world. Why would I be up here just to fall?
The other point the Yard-Duty lady keeps trying to make is that I’m setting a bad example.
A “Bad example?
…Who else is up here?
Anyone trying to scale the super-structure below can’t even get off the ground.
Can’t she see that with her own eyes?”
At some point I am left with no choice but to remain upon my perch. Descending before the recess bell will only mean having to go “sit on the wall”. If I stay up here until recess is over then I will have to go to the principal’s office and that will mean missing both snack and “quiet time”. That’s a fair trade since, as we’ve already established, I haven’t mastered “quiet time” anyway.
Facing the Yard-Duty Ladies
As I shimmy back down the pole I notice the one Yard-Duty lady is red-faced and flustered with tears starting to roll out of her eyes. I feel bad. She squeezes me so tight, as she hugs me to her chest that I can feel all of her life’s uncertainties flooding out. I promise with all my heart that I won’t do it again when they are on duty, but cross my fingers behind my back because I don’t feel the need to keep the promise when we have substitute Yard-Duty ladies.
Although…I will always came right back down as soon as I get noticed, so as not to cause undue angst.
Making grown-ups cry is really awful. My heart hurts watching the upset I have caused.
Now that I’m an adult I guess I understand their panic.
I was sure of my ability and blind to what could go wrong.
They were sure of all of the bad things in life that could possibly happen, and nearly paralyzed by fear.
Principal v. Mom (a retrospective)
Causing a commotion on such a large scale was always worth the time spent with the principal later. Most of the time, he and I talked about all kinds of other interesting stuff. I don’t remember ever getting in real trouble. I found out later that after the first “ordeal” the principal had called my mom. (Just to give you background….Mom was a very strict disciplinarian….)
After he explained to her what had happened, she simply said,
“Well, if she got herself up there…and got herself down from there…all by herself…then I guess we can assume she’s capable. I’m not going to tell my daughter she can’t, when she most clearly can. If you need to set an example by sending her to the office then be my guest. However I will not punish her for using her skills to capacity.”
(I’m sure she didn’t mean my color-commentary skills because that always got me in BIG trouble at home)
Gee, thanks Mom!
To this day I’m not generally paralyzed by fear…especially when I’m capable.
I still like being perched above the group adding color-commentary to whatever is going on; and,
I still yell “Get out of my bathtub!” to cars that pace with me on the freeway. (You can take a girl out of the playground but some parts of the playground you just can’t take out of the girl!)