Christie’s Chronicles: Swinging my cares away


Driving home the other day, I saw a young girl swinging in a playground down the road from me. Her hair was flying and it seemed she was having a good time.

I remember when I could do that, except when I was in the swingset crowd, I had a pixie haircut and my inch-long “locks” wouldn’t have been flying.

However, the swingset crowd is more concerned with having a good fun day than having a bad hair day.

Really, that’s a mantra by which to live.

Growing up in South Bend, Indiana, our family was one of the few on the block that had a swingset, so that made our backyard popular at times. One time, a bunch of us kids got on the structure for an impromptu play date. Apparently there were too many of us, because the swingset — that of the old-fashioned variety — upended from the ground.

It was kind of a dangerous yet exciting thing to happen — nobody was injured in the incident — and eventually the swingset was put back into place.

There was something about a swingset that just drew in kids.

However, I wasn’t a huge fan of monkey bars. In my formative years in the 1960s, equipment was placed on asphalt, meaning if you fell and cracked your head, too bad for you. With monkey bars, the odds were greater that I would have fallen more than I would have flown off a swing.

With swings, you could get creative. Often I would twist the chain in one direction, and then let go, and I would spin in the opposite direction. With a really hard twist, I could even made a secondary spin.

The merry go rounds took a bit of timing skill. You had to hop on at the right time and grab onto a handle or be flung off the ride. You then had to either wait until the merry go round stopped, or hop off, again at the right time, when you probably were a bit dizzy.

Generally, playgrounds were hard to resist, even if you weren’t in your neighborhood. Spiral slides were even cooler, if nothing else because they looked different.

I do recall a big, metal triangular slide by my grandmother’s home that was hard to use on a hot day. I typically wore shorts in warm weather, and my bare hamstrings did not mix well with hot metal. You also had to navigate up the side of the slide to get to the top, which was usually the best place to begin a slide.

Later in life, I became mildly jealous of the youngsters who had more opportunities to play on non-metal spiral slides that were part of the new generation of play equipment. In fact, I was jealous overall of the more elaborate play structures that seemed to pop up everywhere.

The new playgrounds sometimes make me wish I was in my youth.

On top of slides are small “towers” that allow youngsters to gather their thoughts, or talk about the day’s events, before the big descents. Others have big tic-tac-toe boards, walkways, small climbing walls and tubed slides, although those types of slides might make me feel claustrophobic were I to slide down them as an adult.

I also would worry about getting stuck. I don’t have a 7-year-old’s body anymore.

I wonder if playgrounds for adults could become a thing, and be an alternative to traditional workouts. The spiral slides could be taller — and wider — and tic-tac-toe boards could be replaced with Wordle boards.

Another possibility is that instead of play equipment being in the “kiddie” primary colors of blue, red and yellow, it could have more “adult” colors such as sage green, warm bronze or subtle plum, with maybe a nice window treatment in the slide towers.

Somewhere along the line, though, it became too juvenile and uncool for a person to ride a swing or climb monkey bars, which, by the way, is a safer endeavor now that tire pieces and wood chips are used as a base instead of asphalt.

I’m not saying I will take to a swingset anytime soon. For one thing, my stomach isn’t what it used to be, and that swinging motion might adversely affect my physical well-being. Also, regardless of the materials beneath it, monkey bars might provide to be too much of a challenge for my arthritic fingers.

So, I think I might have to settle for simply thinking about that girl with the flying hair, who perhaps was forgetting about her troubles and just being happy to be on a swing.

It might make my day that much more enjoyable.


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