With every swing she ages—sometimes younger by a minute, sometimes older by a generation—away she swings, back she falls, away. I stand on widespread feet, in sneakers on sand, in one spot for hours, pushing, waiting, pushing, but even I, bending with her impact on the backswing, heaving her ahead on the forward swing, am not still. I cannot do just this. My feet are not fixed; I dance in place. I roam. The playground pulses with mothers and daughters who don’t trade places, but half the time I think I’m the one on the swing. This is not who I thought I would be. I know my daughter knows the precipitous moment when the swinger thinks that this time—despite the million times it hasn’t happened—that this time the swing will continue to rise and not come back. I push too hard sometimes to help her strive toward that release. I shouldn’t. We all come back. The swing itself corrects me. It lets her rise beyond the plane until, still rising, she is traveling backwards. The trip back down from there is quick and sickening; it yanks the slack chains taut until they bounce her back into the curve. The falling is dreadful. The landing is worse. I force it when I need to go, when the other mothers’ pity overwhelms me, when she will not say, It’s enough, Mommy, we can go. She doesn’t cry. She goes rigid, goes silent, and won’t swing her feet. I let her pendulum wind down until I can catch her in my arms without falling. Did you go too high? I ask her, grateful to have and to hold her, feeling my balance return. I never tell her she’s had enough. I wait for her to tell me.
Copyright © August 31, 2008 David Hodges