I once heard someone say that one of the loneliest things they could think of was an empty swing. I can see their point, but perhaps all the kids are at home eating toasted cheese sandwiches and tomato soup with their parents in a warm cozy kitchen.
I’ve decided that a lonelier sight is the spot where a swing set once sat. The swing set your offspring played on as children. The swing set that replaced the rickety one that came with the house. The swing set that you bought with your teacher-bonus money the year the school district changed their mind and didn’t give out teacher bonuses. The swing set that made you finally understand the adage “Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.” The swing set that Dean put together one weekend.
I knew the day was coming that the swing set would be gone. Dean and I talked about giving the swing set to someone who had young children who would use it instead of it sitting, unused, in our backyard. Of course we asked or kids first, if they minded us getting rid of their old swing set — they didn’t. Last fall Dean offered it to a woman at work who just moved into a larger home and who has two young boys. She said yes and her husband came and dismantled and removed the swing part of the swing set, but it took until this week for them to get the last part of swing set — the tower with the red roof that led to a small plastic slide. The kids used to climb the ladder to the tower and then slide down the slide. Sometimes they would play in the tower for a while. I think Clare even slept in the tower one year — she certainly used to sit there and read or draw. Under the tower was a sandbox, that more recently, has become the neighborhood litter box for outdoor cats, but used to occupy Clare and Andrew for hours. Dean talked about buying a Danish flag for the roof because the roof was red and my ancestors are from Denmark. We never did buy that flag.
Now, the place that held our swing set is an empty, muddy void. In a few seasons the grass will cover the place where the swingset once sat and only our memories and a few photos will remind us that it once stood there.
This is the most recent in a long list of reminders that my kids are getting older — that I am getting older. The first might have been when I finally gave away my maternity clothes and then parted with most of the kids’ baby clothes and the crib — no more babies for me. Then tricycles made way for bicycles. And so on — up until taking our daughter to college. I used to hate it when people reminded me how fast childhood goes because at the time it didn’t seem to go fast at all. Sometimes it positively dragged. But those people were right. Childhood — and life itself — goes fast.
That said, I’m not exactly going to miss the swing set — I miss the kids that used to play on the swing set. Now, who wants a trampoline?