Summer in Minnesota was hot and humid, but when I was a kid I didn’t care. It was vacation time, a delicious expanse of freedom.
This was before PCs, VCRs and gaming consoles, so in those long summer days my brother and I played outside most of the time. The neighbor kids were our playmates and we’d play war, cowboys and indians, cops and robbers. At that age, we didn’t think much about the labels. We just ran around with toy guns and shot at each other by yelling “Bang!” or “Pow!” If we got shot, we had to lie down and count to one hundred.
Our block was our playground. The yards — at least those of the houses with parents or kids we knew — were our battlefields and our hiding places. Our street was for riding bikes complete with banana seats and reverse-pedal brakes that made it easy to do skidding stops. It wasn’t about getting anywhere. It was about riding, moving on wheels, a novel concept once upon a time.
We had a park nearby that had swings and monkey-bars. The swings were those nice tall ones where the bars seemed to reach to the sky. They had the hard, straight seats that you almost never find anymore, the ones where you could stand and press into the seat with just the right rhythm so you kept getting higher and higher with each swing. It was possible to swing up so far that I was nearly horizontal at the ends of the swing. I imagined getting so high that I would actually go up and over the top, completing some huge swinging circle that I suppose even then seemed impossible.
I rode a swing not long ago. Sure, the seats were those flexible U-shaped things they have now but still, it was fun to sit and ride the swing. I loved the rush of air, the simplicity of sitting in a seat that really goes nowhere and simply enjoying the ride.
There’s an embarrassment now to the act of swinging, a moment of letting go of the need to look good. After all, I’m an adult. Swings were made for children. Maybe I look stupid. Perhaps I’m hogging the swing while some child is going without. Where do these thoughts come from? I’ve never actually had someone come up to me and say, “Excuse me, but could you get off there so my child can use that swing? And, by the way, you look ridiculous. Act your age!”
Swings are for children. We’re all children, if we allow ourselves to be. There’s something to being a child, to swinging, to summer. Ride the swing and go nowhere, just revel in the rush of wind as it brushes your hair and caresses your face. Smile, it’s fun.
Do you still ride swings? And do you know where I can find some with the straight seats?
Photo credits: The bicycle photo is mine. The hardcore, old-school swing seat is from Angie on Wikimedia Commons.