Of all the equipment on the playgrounds of my youth, swings were always my favorite. There’s just something magical about swinging, maybe because it’s the closest a kid can get to flying without tying on a makeshift cape and taking an ill-advised leap off the roof of the house. Swinging as high as possible and then throwing yourself out of a swing to see how far you can soar before you hit the dirt is certainly not any safer, with our without a cape, yet most kids end up trying it at least once. I was a chronic swing jumper, as was Steven, and now that we are parents, I’ve begun wonder if this sort of behavior is genetic. If so, I can only hope that our daughter manages to follow in our footsteps and avoid all swing jumping injuries as well.
I spent my most formative swinging years growing up in the tiny town of Bird City, Kansas. Check your maps. It really exists. It’s barely a pit stop along the highway in very northwestern corner of the state. Bird City had just one blinking red light on Main Street, and if you walked for more than ten minutes in any direction, you would walk yourself right out of the city limits. The town itself consisted of a bank, two grocery stores, a farmer’s Co-op complete with grain elevator and gas station, a library, a Senior Citizen’s Center, a cafe, a restaurant/ice cream shop, a bar and grill, a park, a swimming pool, a couple beauty shops, and a school–just the high school though. Kindergarten through sixth grade students were bussed nine miles to the elementary school in McDonald, Kansas–a town with no stop lights and only one very short paved road.
We moved to Bird City the summer before I started first grade, so I rode the bus each day to attend school at Cheylin East Elementary. It’s just a small school in a small town, but I wouldn’t trade the education I got or the experiences I had there for anything. We had small classes (there were 12 students in my class), amazing faculty and staff members, and a community full of people who cared very much about their children’s education. Plus, Cheylin Elementary had some pretty awesome swing sets on the playground.
When I was in school, we had recess twice a day (and gym every day too). Not like today where we’ve taken all the fun and physical activity out of our children’s schools, and then dare to wonder why so many children are overweight and being diagnosed with ADHD…but that’s another topic for another time.
As soon as the bell rang for recess, it was always a mad dash to the playground to claim the best swings. There were two large swing sets. One was a very long, very tall traditional set with a dozen or so swings hanging on long chains. The other was a huge dome-shaped structure with six swings hanging around the perimeter. Those were the coveted swings, and it was a race each day to get one. Facing the middle of the dome, the game was to swing higher and higher until you could kick out a foot and touch the center where all the bars met. A few kids even dared to hook their feet around the bars at the top and hang there for a moment before letting go and free-falling back toward the earth. It drove the teachers crazy.
I can only wonder how many hours I have spent swinging in my life. The best part is, no matter how old you get, it never ceases to be fun. Today, after taking a short walk on the bike trail to take advantage of the beautiful spring weather, we had enough time to stop at the little park near our house so Cadence could get her first taste of swinging. I would wager to say that she liked it. You think?