Airborn — feet off the ground

Gail Thomas Strong

Gail Thomas Strong

By Gail Thomas Strong, Vice President for Community Engagement, WFYI

A colleague told me he needed someone my age and size to work with him as he shot a commercial. No face, just the back of me swinging on a swing. It seemed an easy thing to do, and in the spirit of cooperation, I agreed.

“I was a child myself, eagerly running for the swing on very long chains that my grandfather wrapped on a limb of a very sturdy oak tree.”

I arrived at a beautiful wooded playground and enjoyed the dew on the ground, cool air, deep green leaves. I sat down and began to swing, settling into the seat, stretching my legs to avoid scraping my shoes on the ground, and chatting with my coworkers. It wasn’t long before my legs were stretching farther with pointed toes. I began to pump….and the memories began.

“I spent hours on that swing, going as high as I could while seated, changing the experience by facing the opposite direction, or twisting the chains so I’d spin.”

My first thoughts were for the sweet hours at playgrounds when our children were little, first in the baby bucket swings as they swayed back and forth. As they got older I recalled how big their smiles were when I’d stand in front of them and tell them to try to touch my hands so they would learn how to move their own legs back and forth.

Then I thought about when they were older and I’d hear “push me higher!” Next was the power they felt as they launched themselves off the swings in an attempt to land on their feet. I shared those stories with my colleagues; one is a young dad, and the other a grandpa. They had their own stories.

What came next was unexpected.  I was a child myself, eagerly running for the swing on very long chains that my grandfather wrapped on a limb of a very sturdy oak tree. I spent hours on that swing, going as high as I could while seated, changing the experience by facing the opposite direction, or twisting the chains so I’d spin. When my friend would come to play, one of us would sit and the other would place her feet on either side of the hips and stand above so we’d get legs and bodies moving to try to go faster. On brave days I’d run, land on my feet on the seat and do my best to use the momentum to get started. I did my fair share of leaping off the seat, too.

Gail Thomas Strong’s childhood drawing

Gail Thomas Strong’s childhood drawing

As I walked off the playground, it was with a sense of calm and contentment. I’d forgotten that joy and freeing feeling. I’ll be going back.

Join us and reclaim memories of your childhood during the Spirit & Place
Festival, Nov. 2-11, as we celebrate “Play.”

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2 thoughts on “Airborn — feet off the ground

  1. I love this post! I grew up swinging on my next door neighbors’ tree swing. I spent hours swinging there, either with friends or by myself. It was a good place to work out my troubles, with the sound of air rushing by my ears. More than anything else, I’d love to have swings at the office!

  2. Wonderful post, I too have such fond memories of playing on the swing in my back yard or at the neighborhood park as a kid. Even the day I tore my brand new shorts that got caught in the chain when I jumped off the swing. My Mom clearly told me not to wear them outside to play in! You also reminded me of how much fun it was with the kids teaching them the joys of a swing. Thank you! Still love to swing on the swings or a glider. Thank you for the reminder of fond memories.

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