I wearily plop down in the shade of one of the park's trees and rest my head on it's gnarled roots. Near toxic stress levels had brought me to my favorite sanctuary: outside. Nothing slows me down like watching trees grow. I feel the tight stranglehold of tension let go as my body melts into the cool grass. In just a few minutes the wind lulls me to sleep as it whispers through the leaves.
HHee...aaHH - HHee...aaHH ... HHee...aaHH -HHee...aaHH!
The rhythmic metallic braying rouses me from my nap on the grass and lures me to the playground.
A half tanned boy in baggy yellow shorts is putting forth a tremendous effort on the old swings. The metal casing, which loops around the steel frame anchoring the chains to the bar, squeals as he flies with determination to get to some unreachable destination.
HHee...aaHH! He bails out and stumbles in the the gravel for a moment before bolting off to give the merry-go-round a dizzying spin.
Sitting on the far swing is a young girl watching the boy with an angry pout face. She limply drags her bare feet in the dusty trenches scrapped in the ground. I sidle up to one of the empty swings and take the smooth black seat in my hands and jangle the chains to catch her attention.
"I once tried to swing over the bar" I quietly confess and without waiting for her response heave the swing in a wobbly 360 degree spin around the bar.
With her mouth frozen in an "O", her eyes never leave the the swing and its phantom rider.
I begin to push her and once she is flying fast enough I give her an underdog and plop into the adjacent swing to catch my breath.
"Didja make it?" She asks as she whizzes past me.
The memory makes me laugh out loud. I had been seven when my older brother had had shown me that flung hard enough an empty swing would go around the bar. It had been that summer I set about to swing over the bar. I had vigorously trained for days. Spending all my free time at Lawnridge park glued to the swings. I ignored countless wails from the other kids who complained that I should get off and give them a turn.
Then came the infamous day of the attempt.
I had felt the chains slacken momentary as I lunged forward and then the with a teeth clenching jar catch as I was retrieved from the clutches of the sky and pulled back. I reclined my body and pumped my blackberry stained legs. Then for just a second my line of vision cleared the top of the swing set. As I swung down I saw the ground rush up...I saw the grass blur into the blue of the sky, this was it I was going over!
Then with a jerk I was catapulted from the swing and sent flailing through the air...I saw sky, I saw grass, I saw STARS as I tumbled down the west hill of the park. Hawthorne street caught me in its gutter and halted my descent.
An avalanche of screaming children rumbled down after me. As they gawked at me I looked to my sister for an evaluation of my condition. Surely she would have paused to collect any of my limbs that may have been ripped from their sockets. She was already sprinting back up the hill calling dibs on my vacant swing.
"Did...did" I croaked. "I go over?"
"Hell yes!" one of the neighbor kids excitedly screamed, "Head OVER heals!"
They broke up and followed after my sister.
The wind on my face rouses me from the past as the swing transports me into a new reality. I close my eyes and fling my head back till my hair sweeps the ground. The pitch and sway numbs my inner ear and I loose all sense of direction.
...I let the swing toss me out. My legs feel awkward and gawky like a new foal as I struggle for my footing. My new friend parachutes through the air and lands next to me. I take her hand and we skip over to join the boy on the merry-go-round.
As I lay with them on the hot grittle surface, watching the sky wheel like a kaleidoscope, I feel the last of my stress dissipate. Playground are so much cheaper than therapy.
(c) P Russell 4-24-2000