Sunday, July 22, 2012

Swing helps dad hold on to memory

By Taylor Wilson

To the north of our house a baby blue swing clings to the limb of a maple tree.
Dang maples! Their roots run along the ground, and eat lawnmower blades for breakfast, lunch and supper. I once set out to topple every maple tree ’round our house. But as I was standing there with chainsaw in hand, my friend and neighbor, Big Joe Wills, cut me short with a few words, “Taylor, you know me and your momma planted those trees.”
Darn it! Spared, the trees grow on “in memory of,” but I sometimes wonder if my mother doesn’t laugh from above as I circle all those roots on the mower, and struggle to keep their helicopter seeds out of the swimming pool.
And, well, this one specifically-spared maple does hold up the swing.
The chains that cleave to it are rusty and the limb’s bark has swallowed the links in most spots. The swing that used to be a brilliant blue and yellow is now faded and covered with collected layers of sap. The baby has grown that I used to push in the swing and laugh at as the south wind tickled his bare feet and put him to sleep. Why, he’s so big in a decade that his foot won’t fit in the swing, much less his whole body.
The swing now looks so weather-worn that I’ve apologized to visiting friends for leaving it in the tree. They understood: “Oh, at our last house we left behind one of those tire swings shaped like a horse. As far as we know it’s still hanging up, too, hopefully still being used,” my friends sympathized.
And so our swing hangs on, to a limb and a memory.
It’s easy enough to forget, as it hangs partially hidden from the sight of our porch by the tree’s trunk. Every once in a while, I see it kind of looming there, out of the corner of my eye, and I think about taking it down. But then I always manage to prune that notion.
To do so would say many things, perhaps, some of them painful. Maybe, my action would say/prove that time marches on, that I am getting old and fat, and that our youngster is growing up, whether I want him to or not?
Or maybe I am trying to shelve time, or at the least, stall it a bit?
Oh, I mow around it, too, dodging maple roots and pushing the swing about as I go under it on the mower; but again, I just can’t bring myself to take it down. What does it say of me, that I have Peter Pan Syndrome...with an aversion for growing up?
I mean, really, it’s all just a piece of plastic, rusty chains, a growing tree, and a memory.
That it kind of hides while hanging there, behind the maple, might even offer salvation of sorts. Otherwise, Beth might make me take it down. Or maybe, just maybe, she feels the same way about the swing?
I do recall once she shared a similar sentiment. It was a time when we were ridding our son's room of “baby stuff,” going up and down the stairs with tiny clothes and toys. That’s when my wife had a similar avoid-taking-down-the-swing fit.
“I have to sit down,” she said, after a trip or two up and down the stairs carrying baby things away.
“What’s wrong, old woman?” I asked, taking a seat on a step beside here. “Are the stairs too much for you?”
“No,” she said, a tear welling and tracing her cheek. “It’s just overwhelming; he’s growing up!”
I chuckled a bit, and mumbled an understanding, but I did not tell her about the swing. (I guess I didn’t want to admit the growing truth.)
Secretly, I have pondered if the reason she has not told me to take it down is because it is kind of hidden from view? Out of sight, out of mind? Then too, it might be that she also wants it to hang around? I am afraid to ask.
You know, it’s silly when you think about it, a grown man trying to stave off time by leaving a plastic toddler swing hanging in a maple tree. But as my friends hinted, when they came over, I may not be alone. Many are the rusty swing sets I have seen in people’s backyards. Likewise, the numbers of tree houses I have seen rot away outnumber those that were torn down at an apropos time.
And what does it hurt, hanging there—my vain attempt to put a pause button on a time warp? Our children really do grow up fast!
Still, it’s a security swing, if not blanket. It gives me comfort just hanging around. And even now, if I close my eyes, I can hear a baby giggle while seemingly soaring beneath the limbs of a maple. And yep, I could take it down tomorrow, if I get orders to do so. But rest assured I wouldn’t want to do that.
In my mind’s eye, this is how I’d prefer it play out: I’d like for a younger, smarter and better-looking (and they will not have to work hard to beat me at that) descendant take it down one day. “Really, who knows why Great-Great Grandpa Taylor left these old chains and swing WAY up here in this tree?” some grown, multi-great grandkid might ponder, while looking up.“They tell me he always was crazy!”
Nope, it probably won’t happen that way. But then, one, like the swing, has to hang on to hope and memories.

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