Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Poem in my Pocket

Today is Poem in Your Pocket Day
The Swing
by Robert Louis Stevenson

How do you like to go up in a swing,
     Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
     Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
     Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all
     Over the countryside—

Till I look down on the garden green,
     Down on the roof so brown—
Up in the air I go flying again,
     Up in the air and down!

“You know that swing out in front?” I know the swing well; Gram and the kids and I sit on it every time we visit her. It’s the kind that is self-enclosed, two benches that face each other which you move by pushing on the floor with your feet. The neighbor kids had a smaller version on their swing set when I was a girl. “Well, I still swing on it,” Gram told me a few days ago, “I swing as high as I can. Some people like to just glide back and forth, but I go as high as I can on it.” I have no doubt this is the case, and that I love that about her.

My grandma is a spunky woman, to say the least. She is 97 and a half, and probably very close to passing from this world, but the idea of being on a swing still makes her eyes shine. It was only 3 or 4 years ago that she shocked me and my mom by leaping off a swing at a playground after swinging alongside my daughter, behaving as though there weren’t a 90-year span between their ages. She landed unscathed, and on both feet, but I remember thinking at the time that maybe it’s worth jumping off a swing just one more time, even if you do get hurt.

All three of my children went through a stage where if you asked them how much of something they wanted, like a snack, or a treat, their answer was “Too much.” Come to think of it, that’s still my favorite amount of good stuff, too. And I’m guessing that my grandma never let go of that childlike way of embracing the good things in life. I like to imagine that she’s taken that swing in front of the senior center so high the feet were in danger of lifting out of the ground. That whoever is in charge of upkeep has scratched his head in wonder that he has to keep shoving the poles deeper into the ground every month or so.

I saw Gram get on a swing every time she had the chance, and listened to her recite Stevenson with reverent joy just about every time. Her voice is forever joined in my mind with the rhythm of the poem and the motion of a swing. Especially that moment when you swing too high and the chains slacken a bit and your stomach drops, right before you get pulled backward and down, only to go flying up in the air again. I think it’s time to head for the playground and continue the legacy—swing as high as I can.  Maybe even too high.

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