It Don’t Mean a Thing If You Ain’t Got That Swing
As a child I went from one swing to another…from the one in my backyard, to the tire swing at my aunt and uncle’s cottage on Pine Creek, and on to the tree swing at my grandparents’ at Lorenton.
I loved the feeling of grabbing the ropes in my hands, and leaning way back and looking up into the sky. The lift of my feet off the ground was a wonderful disconnection with the reality of walking solidly on the earth. I swung “into the moment”—an invitation to sail to the land of imagination. In a swing, all lands seemed possible.
Floating back and forth and going higher and higher brought those worlds closer and closer. Cares and worries disappeared and freedom was an idea realized. There wasn’t a time I was aware that I was too young to swing. Years later, the surprise to me would be I was never too old to enjoy swinging.
I remember spending hours up on Woodland Avenue on another aunt’s front porch glider. While it didn’t go up in the air, it did glide back and forth and was a delight for a kid who didn’t have one at home. I ate my lunch on it, cut out paper dolls, read books, cuddled with the dog, and took afternoon naps on it. I thought, “Perhaps adults want to keep their feet on the ground.”
Dad had returned from the war with his sailor hammock, a heavy white canvas one that had to be strung between two trees at our place on Pine Creek or two poles that held up a second story porch at our home. I did the same on Dad’s hammock as on my aunt’s glider.
My sister and I were very competitive and used to “fight” over being there first. Sometimes we’d try to roll the other one out. If I were the winner I’d wrap the sides of the hammock around me, while my sister would violently twirl me in a 360-degree circle, trying to toss me out of the hammock.
The height of relaxation was to be left alone long enough to take a nap in it. It didn’t happen very often, but it was true luxury to even approach the thought of it. I liked seeing Dad’s name printed on it, along with other military information. I’m not sure how, why, or when the hammock disappeared, but it must have been between winter and spring, and most likely a decision made by my mother.
Forty years later I graduated to parasailing while vacationing on a Mexican beach. I watched others take flight into the air with their hands on the ropes of a giant parachute and float higher into the sky. After watching for a while, I knew I had to join the unfettered ranks of those who dreamed of imaginative flight. I was not disappointed and felt like a kid with a new toy.
Life goes on, but I never lost my love of putting up my feet and losing contact with the earth. It still seems an invitation to dream of worlds beyond. When I moved into my present residence, one of the first things I did was to hang a swing on my back porch. I still put up my feet, enjoy a beverage, and let my mind take flight. And now closer to the age of an “elderly aunt,” I’ve also got a glider on my front porch; when my grandchildren visit, I note them swinging away on both. Like me they’ve enjoyed food, books, writing, and carrying on conversations with others while enjoying the constant back and forth rhythm of relaxed moments.
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!
—Robert Louis Stevenson