Every kid should have a swing set. Or, at the very least, access to a swing set. When we were kids, my sister and I had a swing set. It was your standard 2-swing model with a slide and that see-saw/glider thing. When we were small, having the legs/poles of the set jammed into the dirt was good enough. We could swing as far as we liked, jump off at the apex–which had to have been 20 feet in the air, right?–and come down onto the grass, the pile of leaves we had prepared, or the friend or sibling who didn’t get out of the way in time. As we got bigger, we had to be careful. Swinging back too far pulled the poles out of the ground!
But, to paraphrase Peter, Paul, & Mary, "giant [swings] make way for other toys." We used the swing set less and less. It slowly rusted; and then, one day, it was gone. I remember the pang I felt in my stomach that day. There was a flash of brilliant indignation: "How could they take it down without at least asking me?" Perhaps more than anything else, that swing set symbolized my childhood. And now it was gone. That flash quickly faded as I realized I couldn’t remember the last time I actually used it. And the yard looked so much better without it. It would certainly be easier to mow that spot now! Minutes later I didn’t really miss it at all.
This past weekend I demolished our family swing set. Fourteen years old and made of wood, it clearly had seen better days. I had hopes of merely dismantling it and giving it away on freecycle.org. But as I approached, toolbox in hand, I realized that giving it away would be irresponsible. It was rotting. It was unsafe. I preserved the swings, their mounting hardware, and the slide and gave those away. The wood has been cut up and left by the side of the road for anyone to take away. That spot in the yard is now easier to mow.
I had contemplated doing this for over a year. My reasons were practical. I can’t remember the last time it was used. Indeed, I think Amanda and one of her friends were the last people to use it! I expected to feel relieved. I did not expect to feel loss. That same feeling I had as a kid came back, with a twist. It wasn’t just my childhood I was missing this time, it was my kids’. When I picked Brady up at his Mom’s and he asked what I did this weekend, I told him about the swing set. His response was a remorseful, "Awwww…"
And then it was gone.
I know exactly what he felt.