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The swing set

Posted: October 11, 2012 4:29 p.m.
Updated: October 12, 2012 5:00 a.m.

I tore down the old swing set last weekend, demolished it actually. I unscrewed as many nuts and bolts as I could and then took the saw to it, leaving only the pile of sand which had broken the fall of many a crying or giggling toddler at the base of the sliding board. It was time. The old structure had become a little “shop of horrors,” so to speak. There were several rungs missing from the ladder, there were damaged boards everywhere, the swings had become rusty and unreliable. She was tired.

She had put up a good fight. I brought her to life when my oldest son was three and she had been a stalwart over the years. She was just a swing set, but I would never say that in front of her. Although she moved only once in her life, from a few blocks away, she had seen the world. She had been a seagoing vessel, a spaceship, a fortress of immense proportions. She had defeated enemies, welcomed friends and served as a confidant to many a teary-eyed soul. Through her sand, she created civil engineers, mountain climbers and construction specialists. On her beams and swings she created ballerinas, gymnasts and trapeze artists. In the far reaches of her upper platform, she awakened sailors, airmen and soldiers. She provoked imagination and thought.

As I took the swing set apart, I noticed that each part of the structure had a story. Every surface had its own way of saying, “Hey, remember me?” It is funny, sometimes, the things which stay with us, the memories which somehow linger when others are exiled to the barren corners of our mental geography. Old sights and sounds and smells have a peculiar way of cultivating the fields of our mind, pushing the craggy rocks or priceless stones to the surface, leaving us to endure the torment or bask in the joy. And so it is, I noticed, with the swing set.

As I completed the destruction, and it was total destruction, I was saddened somewhat by the loss. There had been so many memories here. I had created this structure with my own hands and it had provided so much joy. “She” had been family. As I piled the last remnant into the trailer, however, something else happened. My youngest son inquired as to the contents. “Hey dad”, he said. “Do you think we could use that wood? We are building a shed at Jake’s, a place where we can hang out.”

I could almost feel the remnants awaken. Maybe there was something to be salvaged after all. Maybe there was still worth in the old lady. Maybe she could still spread her wings and challenge the wind and rain yet again. Maybe she still had worth. We shall see.

As of this writing, I don’t know her future. The old swing set may not live another day. She has hope though. And if that is not enough, she has the memories of a hundred children, young and old, swinging and laughing and crying and enjoying life under her shadow. I have that, too. And someday one of the laughing, the swinging, the crying, the playing will decide to build his or her own swing set. And she will live again.

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