We have a swing inside our house.
It hangs like an open invitation, beckoning friends to swing toward the kitchen or soar all the way up into the rafters in the living room.
During the recent rebuild of our place in Montana, I asked Tom, the contractor, to put in a swing. “That’s the perfect spot for it,” I said, pointing to the lodge pole pine log that runs across the ceiling, separating the dining room from the living room. Tom indulged me by jerry-rigging a seat made from a scrap of framing fir, and hanging it with some ratty rope that happened to be laying around the job site.
Joe, one of the carpenters, scowled, “You’re not going to keep that there?” The implication was that we should put it outside in the yard where it belongs.
“It’s permanent, “ I said. “I loveit!” I was giddy with the excitement of having an indoor swing for the first time, and I couldn’t help grinning as I pumped harder and higher, demonstrating how I could sail up and out into the living room. “It makes me feel like a kid again. You should try it!” I called down to him.
Tom revised the makeshift set-up with a shiny new red rope and a handsome thick oak seat. The first guest to give it a try was my husband’s son from Connecticut, who’d come out to Montana to go fly-fishing with his dad.
Wil flew up and up, touching his toes to the ceiling in the dining room, while his bemused teenage son photographed him, probably enjoying the spectacle of this unusual, and maybe to him, unfatherly, activity. Pumping even harder, Wil left a toeprint on the ceiling. Perfect. I suggested he autograph it. A competitive goal for others to match.
The next day Tom was alarmed when he noticed how much the rope had stretched. “Jeez,’ he said, “I thought you were going to glide gently back and forth.”
He yanked out the rope with the slack in the line and said the swing was off limits for now.He strengthened it with a 3/8” galvanized steel chain that was powder-coated in the glossiest, prettiest red paint.The new industrial strength chain was attached to the overhead log with brackets and lag bolts.Now it was sturdy enough for whatever our athletes dished out.
“Why a swing?” more than one person has asked.
“Why not?” I don’t understand why everyone with a high ceiling doesn’t have one. It costs next to nothing—a rope or maybe a chain, a wooden slat, some bolts. It’s real simple, and anyone any age, any fitness level can do it. And no matter what sorrow or sadness you might be experiencing, it can’t cling to you when you’re swinging.
If I’m passing through the dining room and I’m not in a rush, sometimes I might idly sit on the seat and start pumping for the sheer pleasure of it. When I gain altitude, with my hair blowing freely in the whoosingbreeze, it’s the closest I get to flying. Floating free in the air, I’m transported to another place. The swing is my happy place. As I’ve said to Ed, When I’m on our swing, I don’t need a therapist.
As a kid, we had a small swing set in our backyard in Seattle.It had two little seats--one for my brother, one for me—and none of the razzmatazz of today’s fancy swing sets with slides and ladders and forts.A large kitchen window overlooked the backyard, so our mother could be inside and still keep her eye on us.
Seward Park was within walking distance from our house, and back before helicopter-parenting, little 5-year-old me, a free range child before the term existed, would wander by myself over to the public swing sets. Sometimes a parent who was there with a child would give me an extra push, too. My little world looked different from way up there—Lake Washington, the boat basin, the picnic areas. I was a lonely child but I never felt lonely when I soared through the air on a swing.
At a recent reunion of my husband’s family the swing was never not in use.Our oldest granddaughter, who is otherwise reserved, would swing standing up, while her younger brother preferred side-saddle. The only danger was if someone walked by and wasn’t paying attention and got hit but that’s never happened because there’s usually people around to yell, “Hey, watch out!”
One grandson, who likes to hula hoop, can hula hoop while Ed throws him a ball and they play catch back and forth. I wonder if they could do this trick while he’s gliding on the swing? Another grandson gets as high as he can and in mid-flight jumps off and lands on a ottoman, which he’s positioned just so beneath him. The old ottoman with wheels skids across the wooden floor until it crashes into the ledge next to the picture window. This reminds me of when our youngest grandson used to enjoy climbing up our bannister. Still in diapers, once he looked down from the height of the second floor, and called out to me, “No responsible adult would let me do this.”
A favorite memory is of our youngest grand-daughter happily gliding all the way up to the rafters, while none, not one, of the five family members on the couch in front of her, were paying any attention to her extraordinary high-flying feat, except for me who was photographing the little daredevil.
During the reunion the swing was in such constant use by twelve people for five days that as Ed’s family was packing up to leave I was horrified when I noticed that one of the lag bolts had unscrewed from the overhead log. Both bolts were replaced with bigger, sturdier hardware.
I enjoy watching people’s reactions. To some the swing seems as foreign as if we’ve brought a bison indoors. And I admit I’m a little suspicious of anyone who doesn’t enjoy it—unless they have a physical excuse like vertigo. Brad, my hiking partner, is a extreme athlete, who almost lost his leg while skiing off-trail and ended up in a avalanche, and who thinks nothing of bike riding 100 miles a day. Yet he approached the swing timidly, and never really let himself go and enjoy it.
Sometimes when I get high enough I pause and glide like a bird on a thermal, and I can’t stop smiling. This is what contentment feels like. Because think of it, have you ever seen a grumpy, frowning person on a swing? Hey, maybe what our country needs now are more swings to improve the national mood.