I recently finished reading J.M. Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello, so I may preface future journal entries with “We skip.” This indicates a significant gap of time between the previous entry and the current one.
I also like the mental image it conjures, of two or more adults skipping. Down a city sidewalk, say, or a country lane. Hands joined, and swinging between their bodies.
I also like swinging.
Not like adults in Hollywood throughout the 1970s, but like children. In the sandbox. Remember? With the little plastic pail and shovel? When you close your eyes you get that sensation of falling off the edge of the planet onto a new and better one, perhaps, plus a teeny tiny jolt of adrenalin.
There are no good swing sets in my neighborhood. There used to be one that was tall enough and sturdy enough for adults, but it was recently replaced by the powers that be. First there was a warning sign that I read as ominous. For the safety of your children, the sign read. Well, I have no children, and while I should not mind when civic bodies take it upon themselves to parent the children of others, I confess I do mind. These are the same sorts of well-intentioned folks who brought us the push-down-and-screw tops on everything from aspirin to household cleaning products to studio solvents. Or the safety switches on cigarette lighters that the children of smokers always know how to disengage anyway.
Shortly after the ominous sign appeared, the one good swing set in my neighborhood was replaced with a shorter one, with only two seats for grown ups or tall children, instead of four. The other two were replaced with seats for smaller children. One looks something like a diaper, if diapers were made of strips of black tire pieces. The other is meant to hold an infant. It looks something like an oversized child car seat. Molded plastic, in a warm hue that used to be called office beige. Or taupe in more fashionable settings. Or maybe a shade lighter and slightly more neutral than puce, which is close to puke.
I wonder if the industrial designer skipped the course on color theory or early childhood development.
One evening I came upon a young family enjoying the new swing set.
The mother slumped in one of the adult seats, desultorily swinging to and fro.
A toddler dangled in the toddler seat, the one that looks like a diaper, occasionally demanding, “Push me!”
The father swung in the infant seat, which was actually not much smaller than his adult body.
A grandmother stood nearby, bouncing the infant in her arms.
The problem with the new swing set is that the adult seats are situated so high above the ground that I have to hitch myself up to get into them. I am not short for an adult. I am slightly taller than average for a woman. This indicates to me that the seats are placed too high for children. Yet the swing set overall is too short for good swinging action. This tells me the swings are not intended for adults.
“For the safety of your children…”
Funny, the only time I can remember hurting myself on a swing set as a child was from trying to hitch myself up on a swing seat that was placed too high, missing, falling, and the swing seat slamming into the back of my head.
Perhaps the swings were installed by a very tall man, who gave no consideration whatsoever to the bodies that might actually swing in them. Perhaps the designer or the engineer neglected to specify the distance between the swing seat and the ground.
The ground itself has been replaced, sandbox exchanged for bark chips. Leave the plastic pail and shovel at home. Are wood slivers designed to encourage children’s play, I wonder, just about the time that I notice they do not discourage dogshit, although they are just about the same color.