Farewell to Swing Sets
childhood gear carries memories of days gone by
Frida Kahlo once said “Nothing is absolute. Everything changes, everything moves, everything revolves, everything flies and goes away.” I would like to claim that I was enjoying a mindful moment of reflection and this quote surfaced, but actually I saw it on Facebook. It resonated with me. Yes, I will admit my firstborn graduated from high school this year and I have been grappling with many “last time evers.” I was one of those moms for whom kindergarten countdown was seminal event. I remember thinking that the herds of fifth-graders who charged across the soccer fields like the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park were terrifying. I pondered how would my little angel ever survive amidst them. Transitions and changes are an inevitable. Frida was so right!
Years passed, and the wood swing set became weaker. When the kids weighed more than a hundred pounds, it was dangerous. We couldn’t just take it down and give it away. The wood was shot. It had to go. I couldn’t watch the dismantling. I think everyone who has ever taken down a swing set can relate.
There are certain objects that become associated with big life changes. My kids’ swing set comes to mind. We had finally moved out of our trailer house and purchased our first home. It was a one of those Putnam Heights ranch homes with a one-car garage, a lamppost, and beautiful trees in the yard and on the boulevard. We saved up everything we could to buy a Menards swing set. We visited the store many times, discussing and ultimately selecting the options we wanted. Monkey bars, climbing rocks, a fort – all of these were musts. I was pregnant at the time and remember staring out my kitchen window as my husband, his friend, and my father pieced that swing set together. Most people may be able to throw one of these together in a few hours. Not my crew. My father is a direction reader and completely detail-oriented. My hubby and his friend were the “crew.” When it was finished, they used permanent marker to label the beam from which the swings hung. With time, that swing set became an enchanted place. I watched all three of my kids transform from toddlers to preteens on that swing set.
There was also a plastic crab sand box in that back yard. I recall my youngest squatting in the sand for hours on end, lining up his army guys, our devoted dog standing guard beside him. We didn’t fertilize because we wanted to keep it safe for the kids. In that yard, there was a pitching mound, a mostly sand volleyball court, endless memories, and very little grass.
Years passed, and the wood swing set became weaker. When the kids weighed more than a hundred pounds, it was dangerous. We couldn’t just take it down and give it away. The wood was shot. It had to go. I couldn’t watch the dismantling. I think everyone who has ever taken down a swing set can relate. Recently, I was with my brother-in-law who pointed to a space on his yard. His kids are now in their teens and 20s. With a note of whimsy in his voice, he said, “In a few years, that’s where we’ll put a swing set.” There is a cycle to life.
Recently, we made the decision to sell our tent camper, another object loaded with hopes, dreams, and fond memories. I can honestly say some of the happiest nights of my life were spent under that white canvas with my most loved ones around me. There were thunderstorms, endless amounts of laundry, packing and unpacking. But we were together in that magical time before all of the kids had cell phones and significant others, when no one was worried about college or life, and our biggest issue was whether to have walking tacos or hot dogs for dinner. We camped once last year and not at all this year. It is time for that camper to find a new family, but it has to be the right one with kids who love her and parents who will appreciate her. Keeping her won’t take me back to when life was simpler. “Everything changes,” Frida said. It just takes some time to appreciate that the new normal is good, too.
We are talking about objects here, material things, and they aren’t what make you happy, most agree. Still, it feels like sending away a little piece of my heart watching that camper get towed down the road by another truck, behind another family.
Caroline Akervik is an elementary school librarian in Eau Claire as well as the author of several middle grade and young adult novels, including White Pine, My Year as a Lunberjack and a River Rat and Halcyon, a YA sci-fi scheduled to be released this fall. For more about her writing, visit carolineakervik.blogspot.com.