The first swing my father made for me was an old rubber tire suspended by a rope from a thick branch of the cypress tree. Later followed a board held by two scratchy ropes, again in the shade of the old cypress. There I learned to pump, thrusting my legs forward and then bending them back. Learning to pump meant I was grown up—five or six. At the school playground I competed with others. Who could fly the highest? The playground swings hung from a bar on heavy metal chains that squeaked and clanked as I soared higher and higher. Soon I could even jump off while still in motion, landing firmly on my feet.
But, later, swings became child’s play. I was off to another section of the playground to play kickball, volleyball and softball. A strong batter, I loved the cracking sound as the wooden bat connected with the ball. But, while I was wielding the bat, another swing burst into my life. Rock and roll.
When I was eleven or twelve, I rocked to Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino with boys shorter than me, their eyes level with my budding breasts. Better yet, I swung with my best friend Karen in my living room to our favourite 45 vinyl records: “Rock around the clock” and Ray Charles belting out “What’d I say”.
That was then. Now, in my kitchen, I wiggle my hips to Aretha and James Brown on the radio. And I take my granddaughters to the park where they call me to watch how they’ve learned to pump their little legs. There’s an empty swing next to them. I sit down and push off, thrusting my legs forward and back. Harder and harder. Higher. Higher. Reaching for the sky. Hair flying, the wind brushing my face. Laughing. The girls and I.