Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Swing by Robert Louis Stevenson

As I push my kids out in the evening in search of a playground, I remember one of my favourite poems from my childhood. I am one of those blessed children who grew up with a playground right in front of our house.

It didn't matter if it's a rented house with exposed wires and all sorts of unmentionables because we had a *beautiful* green, playground children could run around in. There were 2 sets of see-saws, an extremely lofty slide (considered 100% not child-safe by today's standards), a set of monkey bars and the best of all a row 4 swings!!!

Every evening when the sun set (since my Mum didn't want me to get any browner than I already was for fear no man would marry me LOL), I would rush out and get on to my favourite swing. It was at just the right height for my feet to touch the ground and launch me off into the air.



I had many friends at the playground - almost every one of them attended either the Chinese or the Kebangsaan schools, which meant that our lingua franca was Hokkien - and one of them is the most nimble persons I have ever met. She was my regular playmate and she was totally reckless. She would run like the wind and roar like a caveman. She can swing down upside on the monkey bars! She can jump off the swing at its highest position in the air! She could sidle right up to the top of the swings! She was SCARY.

Today, she has mellowed down into a gentle, soft-spoken mother with a pretty little girl. She laughed out loud when I recalled our childhood together - I hope that I'll be able to see her again. I think it's great to know someone from your childhood - at least someone remembers you as the person you were then. And not just the person that you are today ;-)

Anyway...on the days when I was alone at the swings and there was a strong wind blowing, I would recite this poem to myself:

The Swing

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,
River 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!

I think I tried reciting it to my friends once but I had to explain "pleasantest" and that "cattle" isn't the same as "kettle" and we had a debate on whether "on the garden green" was grammatically correct!

I must have given up sharing poetry with them because we all went back to running and playing wildly in the playground again.

Nowadays, I have a tough time finding a decent playground for my kids. We can almost always find the monstrous "house" structures with built-in slides and tunnels. And the bouncy see-saws but no swings! There are either no swings or the swings are all tangled up or missing one of their chains.

He's a natural clambering up and down the slides and of course, running wildly around the playground with the other kids but the swing? I had to drive out to an old neglected playground in another neighbourhood and there I taught my son how to stretch his legs out and kick them back to get the swing into momentum.

And he loves it!

I've got to teach him the poem one of these days and then he can swing and sing like his Mum did :D

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