We have a tire swing hanging from a huge elm tree in our front yard. My husband and I bought it for our daughter after she swung on one just like it at a friend’s house–it was love at first swing. There’s even a spot in the grass that has been worn bare where I stand and push her day after day.
When my husband first hung the swing, I was terrified. I thought my baby girl was surely going to fall off and break something. We started out with tiny pushes, all the while yelling, “Don’t let go!” “Hang on tight!” She held on with a white-knuckle grip and laughed the entire time.
Soon came the cries of, “Higher!” Despite my fear, I pushed her just a little higher. The smile on her face grew with every push I gave her. Eventually I became more confident in her grip on those ropes and pushed her even higher. I can see her now, her eyes closed tightly, her face looking up and catching the sun rays peaking through the elm branches. I’ve never seen anyone look so content and so free.
One of our favorite things to do while she swings is to make up stories. My daughter and I tell each other amazing stories of princesses, puppies, bears, and butterflies. Her stories are always about someone being lost and needing a home; she is always the princess that takes them in and cares for them. She tells me she wants to be an eye doctor when she grows up and I tell her about the time I lost my two front teeth at the county fair.
I can mark time by my daughter on that swing in the elm tree. In the summer, she swings in shorts and bare feet while taking a break from her lemonade stand; in autumn, my heart catches in my throat as she reaches for that one leaf that has caught her eye: it’s yellow and red with the first hints of fall and it’s beauty doesn’t escape her; in the winter, I bundle her up and she swings just until her cheeks are numb; in the spring she stretches to touch the new buds of life on the tree. It’s after each spring that my husband has to raise the swing higher because for some reason, her feet keep reaching the ground.
As she has gotten older, her love for that swing has never changed and she becomes braver and braver; the more she swings, the more her confidence grows. Now she likes to lean back as far as she can because it makes her tummy do flip-flops and makes her dizzy. Sometimes as that swing crests at its highest point, she lets go, for no other reason than because it’s fun.
Sometimes she swings with her friends. I am still the motor for this vehicle of adventure, but in these moments I become an outsider. My daughter and her friends whisper things I will never know as they swing. They laugh and smile in a world all their own.
Of course my daughter has had a few mishaps on the swing–a pinched finger, a scraped knee, and the occasional wounded pride, but it’s these times that I insist she get back on the swing just for a couple more pushes. Some days it takes a lot of coaxing, but she always gives in and always ends up smiling.
I love this swing. I love that I can push my daughter as high as she can go, even when it scares us both, and then she comes right back to me; we are connected in that moment. I know one day she will lose interest in the swing and that one day she will no longer need my big pushes. It will be a sad day for me but I’m sure my daughter will be there to give me a push.