Knowing when to let go

When I was a child, we had a small playground set in our backyard. It had monkey bars, a swing, a deck with a fireman’s pole, and a few other features. I loved the swing the most, and I remember begging my¬† mom to push me, again and again. My favourite way to be pushed was “underdog”: my mom would push me so high that she could run under me before I swung backwards.

I didn’t need a push to soar, though. I had excellent swinging form (not a currently recognized sport). When I went forward, my legs were straight as an arrow, and as I swung back, I would bend my legs at the knees, keeping them together but spreading my lower legs to make an “A” shape. Back and forth, back and forth. I could swing for what felt like forever, and it really provided a sensation of transcendence.

I spent a lot of time there by myself, but I also often played there with my siblings. We had a complicated game called “Traffic”, the rules of which I no longer remember, but, not very surprisingly, it involved a lot of movement and dashing about, trying to dodge things and people.

Whenever our cousins or friends came over, we would head to the backyard. My best friend and I had great fun in the winter when there was a heavy layer of snow on the ground. We would climb up to the deck and leap from it into the snow below again and again, each time feeling a rush of delighted fear before we took the plunge.

I can think of only one truly frightening experience on the playground. I had gone up to the deck with a cousin five years younger than I, and we were at the end with the fireman’s pole. This was fun not only to slide down, but to prove one’s strength on by climbing back up, hand over hand. Perhaps D., my cousin, was trying to slide down the pole, but I no longer remember exactly how he ended up hanging off the edge of the deck. He was being kept from falling only by my hold on one of his hands.

It was summer and there was no cushion of snow, and I was terrified that if I let go of him he would break a bone in the fall. I probably wasn’t older than 8 or 9, and he was too little to understand why I wouldn’t just let him go, because my grip on his arm hurt so much! He was crying and wriggling, I was desperately clinging. Finally, I couldn’t hold on to him anymore. Either my strength gave way or he succeeded in struggling out of my grasp. He fell, but was unharmed, to my great relief. And not to worry, this incident did not have a negative impact on our relationship: we are still very good friends.

 

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