We worked hard yesterday, tearing out the old swingset in the backyard. It really wasn’t that old. The year we put it in, my youngest was a baby in the sling while my husband’s brother, sister, and her husband scrambled around with him to help install it. Next month, that baby turns twelve and enters 7th grade.
Our house sits on a double city-lot on a corner and we are backed up by a church parking lot, so we sometimes feel like we are on our own penninsula. We bought the house from a couple with two girls who were then probably 7 and 9. Another sort of jungle-gymmy playset was set up in what we call the side yard, on the other side of the grass that grows to about 6 foot during the summer and which is not readily visible from the house. In other words, when my oldest kids were little, there was no playing on that set by themselves.
A photographer was roaming the city on one of the first warm days of spring one of those years and passed by our house as I was pushing them both in the swings on that old, side-yard set. I still have the clipping somewhere, tucked away, of a happy set of females: a mother, alternating pushes from one child to the next. “‘Wing me, momma, ‘wing me,'” my oldest used to squeal, impatient for her push.
When we realized that the weather had made that swing set more of a play yard for tetanus, we took it down and rebuilt a new swingset directly off the back deck, where I would feel comfortable letting them head out on their own. This one had three sections: an area in the middle with, originally two swings and a hanging bar which gave way to three swings when as many daughters required same; a rocket on which two kids sat back to back and pushed and pulled each other as high as possible; and, on the end, and the first thing to get worn out by weather and kids, was what we called “the four people swing.”
The “four people swing” was formed like a bucket on a Ferris wheel, and kids sat on either side, facing each other, and, again, pushed and pulled to make the bucket go higher and higher. More than likely, it held my oldest, standing with one foot on either seat, hands holding on to the frame, looking like a Samarui warrior as she flipped up and then back. The seats were the first thing to go on this contraption. A victim of weather and abuse–and fun. When it became a danger, we took it down. Last year when we got the middlest daughter a hammock for her birthday, that end of the swingset became one of the hammock poles, the other end of the hammock fastened to the tree that stands over the swingset and the deck.
Many more years of “‘wing me, momma, ‘wing me,” and samaurai swinging, and now it is gone. All that is left is the pile of debris by the street, some partially filled holes where the cement footings were, two replacement swings we bought a few years ago for which I’d like to find a tree branch, and the aches and pains of a couple of old ninnies who thought noon on the hottest day of the year was as good a time as any to tear out a piece of our family history.
In its place, we left the memory of a very good day. Just the five of us working all day together, going to the Home Depot together (I’m still not sure how THAT happened, as this is the place the girls like to go to LEAST of all with my husband and I), sharing a dip in the neighbor’s pool together (the youngest is cat-sitting and was told we could use the pool as long as an adult was with us), having meals together and watching a few fireworks together. Together.
For those of you with teens, I hope you’ll understand what this day was for us. There was little or no fighting and it didn’t take much more than a “let’s go” to get them outside. My eldest still looked like the warrior, heaving chunks of cement into the wheelbarrow and weilding pieces of metal toward the road. The trip to Home Depot was required to get a bag of quick setting concrete to set the pole in the ground on which the other end of the hammock will now be attached. And now we have, off our deck, a hole-y, messy patch of yard that will, in years to come, simply be a continuation of the grass. Or a pool, if these girls have their way (which now explains why they were so helpful in tearing the thing down–well I’m not slow, am I?).
Fittingly, as I typed this last paragraph, I stopped to watch a man pick through the pile at the road and pull out all the metal and place it in his truck. It is scraps of metal to him, things he can turn in for cash, and I don’t begrudge him the living. And I don’t really lament the removal of a bit of our family history–just noting it, paying our respects to memory and filing those feelings away to be remembered next time the wind sings “‘wing me, momma, ‘wing me.”