I have a history with tree swings, a menagerie of memories, all of them ending with me landing flat on my butt.
Oh sure, they all start the same way … the child grins broadly, laughter carries through the air as her hair blows in the breeze. Little tube top, cutoff jean shorts and thongs (we called them thongs way back then), as the hot summer sun shines down on her face. She swings out, back, and out again. But on her second descent from height, just as she starts to head back towards the tree - snap. The rope breaks. And the child's laughter becomes a panicked howl then an oomph as she hits the deck. I shudder at the memories, I can recollect quite a few.
So while I love the idea of a tree swing, what I love more at this time in my life is watching others partake in that good old-fashioned fun. Which is why I said "no thanks" when my husband and son begged me to test ride the one last summer while we were out looking at model houses. "No thanks, no thanks." I shook my head "no" time and time again.
"Oh come on, pleeeease …" they begged. They beseeched and they implored and finally, they broke me down. We braved the weeds and brush and hiked to the top of a hill where someone had so cleverly wrapped a thick rope around a massive branch and made, for the neighborhood kids, a swing in a tree. Complete with wooden makeshift seat. It did seem sturdy enough, but still … I hesitated.
Josh went first, the anticipated vision of youth - laughing, spinning, kicking his feet off the trunk of the tree to make it last longer. Jason went second. Same thing, only older. And heavier. I should have made note of this. The swing was offered to me. Surely times must have changed. Certainly this time I'd be all right. This rope did seem pretty thick.
"Well … OK." I made a big production of relenting and climbing on. I demanded that Jason pull me back as high as possible before running and pushing me out as far as he could. If I was gonna swing, I might as well swing big. I swung out, then back, then out again, spinning to see them as I swung backwards high in the air. Then, as fate would have it, the rope broke. "I knew it!" I screamed angrily on my way down. Jason told me later the look on my face was classic.
Because I had been launched out backwards over a steep hill, I landed with an already rapid momentum, and felt alarmed as I went heels over head down the hill. I think I actually picked up speed. When I came to a stop, my hood was on and there was dirt in my mouth. "I told you!" I shouted, spitting out pebbles. I swore a few times and then started brushing myself off.
My poor kid was more traumatized than I. I was half laughing and half crying, Jason was bent over, hysterical, and Josh was bawling with concern for his mama. We three made quite the scene as we entered the office of the models and asked to use their restroom. "Remember that rope swing up on that hill?" I pointed in the general direction. The lady nodded, her eyes wide with shock. "Well, it's gone." I left it at that and went to pick burrs from my socks and shoelaces.
A new swing hangs from that very same branch today. I know this because we bought a house nearby and we can watch the kids use it every day. And while I walk Josh up there to swing whenever he wants, I refuse his invitation for me to give this one a shot. "No thanks," I tell him, and this time I mean it.
Carolyn Dodds can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.