Confessions of an Aging Swing Kid

I don't have a large backyard, but if I ever get one, I know exactly what outdoor feature will be on top of my 'want' list.
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I don't have a large backyard, but if I ever get one, I know exactly what outdoor feature will be on top of my 'want' list. It won't be a swimming pool, tennis court or fancy basketball hoop. No, the item that can bring me maximum pleasure day after day is my own personal adult-size swing set.

Most of the playground equipment I encountered in nursery school and up through third grade didn't produce feelings of happiness. The jungle gym and the slides were OK, but repeated use got boring pretty quickly. The monkey bars had no appeal at all. And then there was the circular ride known as the 'roundabout.' I've also heard it called the 'big spinner.' In my memory, it will always be known as 'IT -- The Thing That Tormented Me.'

My major problem with the roundabout was that other occupants always wanted to go much, much faster than I did, and if there were older kids in the mix they could make that platter whirl like a centrifuge at the NASA astronaut training center. Then I had to hang on with all my strength to avoid being flung off into the surrounding tanbark, which was not soft and fun to land on. I ceased all association with The Thing about halfway through elementary school.

The one place where I could always find calm, steady enjoyment was on the swings. They are user-friendly and allow you to find your own comfort level in height and speed of the arc, and the rush of air going past your face occurs with relaxing predictability.

I wonder how many grownups secretly share my affinity for swings but aren't comfortable talking about it. Let's be honest: In the court of public opinion, swings have a historic and powerful association with early childhood. They fall into the category of 'kids' stuff' and any adult who doesn't hold this opinion may be viewed as odd or even extra-terrestrial.

In the opening moments of the 1978 re-make of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, there's a montage of ominous images, and one of them shows Robert Duvall, poker-faced, riding a playground swing. The obvious intent of that shot is to alert audiences that strange, otherworldly forces are affecting the human population and the outcome won't be pleasant. I say it's time to reject that kind of judgmental, alarmist thinking. Swings provide a non-competitive, low-intensity recreational experience that's appropriate for every age group. It's all about the fun. If anyone ever suggests adding swings to the Summer Olympics, I will oppose the effort vigorously.

On my backyard dream swing, I'm going to make sure the seat is high enough to keep my feet from scraping the ground. Holding your legs straight out all the time gets tiring. I want to be able to relax and enjoy the feeling of being in motion, fully under control, while staying in one place. Then I can just close my eyes, forget the outside world, let my mind wander, ride as long as I want, and never worry about getting lost.

That's my idea of a satisfyingly swinging lifestyle.

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