The swing set reminds me of a return to basics

January 15, 2013

I was visiting my grandchildren recently; actually, I spent quite a bit of time with the grandchild who is in college. I saw him for about 20 minutes, which I understand from other grandparents is a lot of time. I know, I know, it’s the quality that matters; well, maybe next time.

I can’t imagine where he had been the night before, but if I held my breath I could actually squeeze by his car, which was parked between the driveway and the house. Well it wasn’t so much as parked as somehow landed, with the front wheels hanging over the driveway incline that led to a grove of trees. It was kind of like those aircraft carriers where the plane is held back from dropping into the ocean. There are some things best unanswered.

The other grandchild is a teenager. I noticed she was a continuous blur, running in and out, being picked up, answering a cellphone that was attached to her ear and leaving lots of sticky notes as to her destination. This was a little more quality time, as I could get a few words in before a horn blasted outside and the sound of a door slamming was left behind.

I wasn’t so much as visiting as playing warden for the weekend. A baby-sitting gig.

Of course there were the mandatory ill-behaved, but lovable enormous dogs that consider themselves lap animals, so at any given moment a gigantic nose is placed in your face, and one paw is holding you down in the easy chair. The only task the kids were supposed to take care of was feeding these beasts, I mean, adorable canines.

Apparently, this chore makes everyone disappear faster than you can pull the plug on a piece of burning toast. I don’t have animals anymore, so I don’t know what causes this sudden exit either. Maybe it’s the backbreaking chore of putting a cup of food into a dish on the floor. Yeah, that’s a real killer.

It was a quick weekend, and eventually, it was time to leave the chaos of phones ringing, bells beeping, doors wide open, dogs barking, Chinese delivery men and dozens of other kids opening and shutting the refrigerator.

However, when I stepped onto the back porch to go to my car, I saw something that took me back years. It was an abandoned swing set in the back yard.

Two separate swings hung down silently from the middle of a wooden section of crossbeam that stretched the length of the structure. The swing set looked lonely and vulnerable perched between majestic oaks and evergreens. No one came to play anymore; I could tell this even though I didn’t live here.

The occupants' days of laughter and hilarity had gone long ago to new things, like computers, cellphones, skateboards, ivy towers and yes, the occasional crush.

But the old gal stood her ground, refusing to cede any territory and be hauled away as if she no longer mattered. Every now and then the breeze would rustle, pushing the swing forward ever so slightly and then slowly exhale to bring the seat back in line. A few leftover leaves drifted down, like ballerinas twisting and spinning gracefully. If the old gal could talk, she would no doubt regale you with tales of young children full of games and songs.

You see, swing sets were a place where a kid could let his imagination run wild. It was a place where you could be creative. As your legs gained momentum to push you higher and higher, anything was possible. You could believe you were on top of the world. And literally, you felt the thrill in your stomach when you looked down and saw the ground far below.

I often think that is what is missing in our society, a return to basics, the simple things, the imagination and dream inventors. Sometimes, you do have to stop what you are doing and look around. Unless you had an older brother who talked you into letting him push your swing, which usually sent you airborne onto the neighbor’s roof.

OK, now who hung a pair of pantyhose from my car antenna? Thank heaven playing pranks hasn’t gone out of style. Check it out, another slice of life.

  • Nancy Katz has a degree in creative writing and is the author of the book, "Notes from the Beach." She has written the column Around Town for the Cape Gazette for twenty years. Her style is satirical and deals with all aspects of living in a resort area on Delmarva.