Long Story Short: A swing’s story

For a swing to be properly enjoyed, you need at least two people.

One to swing. One to push or sit beside you.

That feeling of flying through the air, with the wind swapping directions, is almost always good for the heart.

Last week, as I stood in my backyard and pushed my daughter and her friend in the porch swing my husband hung on a giant branch of a Live Oak tree, I thought about the simplicity and joy tied up in a swing.

Even though those two seven-year-olds own enough toys to fill a Subaru, swinging – an ancient form of entertainment – worked better in eliciting joy than any techno gadget.

My father made the swing out of a cedar tree Katrina knocked down, but the girls didn’t need an appreciation of its origins to recognize its magic.

As I pushed the little girls, I thought of the swings I had known when I was about their age.

I don’t know who hung the old tire swing from the oak tree on the east side of my grandparents’ yard, but it was the first swing I loved.

Between the masses of cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents, my cousins and I got ample opportunity to climb atop the tire swing and enjoy the mesmerizing back and forth, back and forth. We always had to make sure not to go catawampus or the swing would hit the tree.

When the tire swing was in use by the kids, adults usually occupied the porch swing. However, in the long run, we all spent plenty of time in the porch swing, as well.

When I was six, I remember sitting there with my grandfather as he peeled a green apple for us to share. He’d give me the peeling to let me toss in the air and see what letter it landed in. The letter was supposed to be the first initial of my future husband. Either way, my grandfather would then slice long slivers of the apple.

A few years later, after my grandfather passed away, and my grandmother was at the beginning of what became a 15-year decline, she and I were sitting in the same swing. I must have said something about wishing someone was there to push us. My grandmother stood up behind the swing on the edge of the porch and began to try to push me in the swing. She was teetering backwards about to fall off the porch when my mother came out the front door and almost panicked. She yelled, “Jan, why are you letting your grandmother do that? She’ll fall and hurt herself.”

It was a horrible, yet defining moment. I remember, as it was happening, thinking that it wasn’t a good idea for my grandmother to stand behind the swing, but I thought she was old enough to know and who was I to say?

Until then, my grandmother had been the adult in our relationship. I was probably about 10 at the time. Suddenly, I realized things had changed. My grandmother wasn’t the same anymore.

Looking back, the realization seems rather harsh. Certainly back then, my mother and I knew things were about to change even more, but neither of us could imagine the length and pain of my grandmother’s mental decline. Even then, I think, on some level, my grandmother realized it too. As sad as that realization was, I remember the immediate subsequent moments as being OK.

My mom, grandmother and I sat down. I don’t remember us saying much of anything. We just let the swing’s slow back and forth comfort us all.

Jan Risher’s column, Long Story Short, appears on Sunday. She can be reached at jan@janrisher.com.


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One thought on “Long Story Short: A swing’s story”

  1. Wow. This article really touched me. I experience something very similar with my grandmother when we swing under the oak tree in her yard. It’s as if the swing tears the fabric of time and space. Whatever that space is in between is so much simplier and demanding of no explanation.

    I love all your articles but this one was awesome!

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