I remember soaring on the swing set when I was a little girl. In my grandparents’ backyard, in a flurry of barefoot hoopla with my big sister and my cousins. We’d take turns pushing each other on the two plastic blue rectangles that hung from rusty chains covered in a thick blue plastic sheath to protect our unfeigned fingers.
One was high. One was low.
For summers upon summers, our artless minds prompted us to squabble over the high swing. The one we had to back into on our tiptoes; the plastic seat touching just above our bums until we hoisted ourselves up into it’s nest. This one is better, we thought. Our feet swinging free above the lush grass instead of dragging along the dirt patch underneath the low swing. Last one one to the fence is a rotten egg, we’d yell.
And that poor little rotten egg had to swing on the low swing.
It wasn’t until we were pumpers that we realized the ugly truth; when no one needed to push us to our peaks. When we’d glide to great heights on our own accord, using only our skinned knees and muddied feet to propel us higher and deeper into the soggy summer sky. When the jumping contests started and we’d compete to see who could launch themselves farther out into the yard. Stretching our legs out at added lengths, arching our bodies back to gain momentum into the gases of the earth.
It wasn’t until then that we realized the low swing was better.
The longer chain of the low swing allowed it to swing markedly higher; our peaks increasing by tenfold. Our pointed toes piloting our bodies to a dismount. Our landings suddenly immersed in the heart of the lawn.
We begged Grandpa to lower the high swing, to make the chain longer so we could swing higher. To even out the competition. To level the playing field of our imagination as we took on our backyard roles of gymnasts and X-Game athletes. And soon, a green leather u-swing replaced the blue plastic rectangle. The swing swung low as the meniscus of the weighted leather hovered shallow above the grass.
— — — — —
Grandma and Grandpa took down that swing set some five or six summers ago. Each bolt and screw a memory: a chorus of laughter, a fearful tumble, a confession of a dream, a scab. And now grown, the grandchildren prefer the screened-in conversation on the porch; under the party lights where the smell of hamburgers waft with each whiff and zephyr of summer.
But there’s something to be said of the swing set and my childlike haste to jump at the higher swing before examining the capacity of the lower. To lurch toward what I think is best. To rush.
Because that’s what I do sometimes: rush. This season in life. An assignment at work. The first two miles of a ten mile run. A hot shower. A family dinner. A trip to the store.
And for what? To where am I rushing? I can rack my brain and try to shuffle thoughts into some sort of cohesive answer, but in the end, all I get is a jumbled excuse. A sentence or two about where I want to be in five years and the deadlines I have for my life. And yes, I am a firm believer in setting life goals and barreling towards them with clenched fists and gritted teeth. But for me, too often that means turning my nose up to all that is around me. To all that is now.
But sometimes (maybe even more than that) every fiber of my being and every nook and cranny of my soul aches for the future. And the right now just doesn’t seem to cut it. It doesn’t seem to be enough. It’s not what I want.
It’s then that I’m reminded of the summers I spent fighting for the high swing, when the low swing wasn’t good enough and our little hands hated to grip its chains.