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Back and Forth

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6 years was all the little girl held as she rushed to the playground. She sprinted past the twisting slide, the towering jungle gym, and the squeaky see saw. But she stopped when she came to the bright red swings. Bright like tamales or fresh apples. She scrambled onto to the highest one and wrapped her small fingers around the chains, relishing the cool feel of the metal against her palm. “Push me daddy!” She cried gleefully. The man in the coat with touches of gray in his hair strode over to the swing holding his daughter, his baby girl. After making sure she was safe he placed his hands on her back and then- she held her breath in expectation- thrust her forward toward the skyline. She screamed with excitement as the ribbon in her long hair flew backward and she rose in the air. Her white tennis shoes, she was sure, almost brushed the clouds. She was flying, flying her apple firecracker colored swing. Back and forth, back and forth.


10 more years grew on the little girl. But the playground seemed not to notice this passage of time: the slide still twisted and the jungle gym was still tall- though not as tall as it seemed before. Maybe the see saw had become a speck squeakier but the swings were still the same firecracker red. So red that it seemed as if the color would drip off any second, like popsicle juice in the sun. The little girl came back to the playground, only the ten years had left their mark on her. She was taller and now that she was 16, did not like to be called little. Still, she rushed to the swings, feeling a bit like her old self, as she slid into the highest one. “Push me!” She called. But this time there was no man with a coat or grey hair. In his place stood a gangly boy in a baseball cap, with bright blue eyes that made her stomach twist like a dancer pirouetting on stage. He walked behind the swing and pressed his hands against her back, sending her into the air. She laughed with delight as she raised higher and higher, her long hair flying with the wind. The boy keeps pushing her, laughing along with the little girl. The rush of air was refreshing, sweeping against her face. Back and forth, back and forth.


20 more years wrapped themselves around the little girl. The playground, however, remained frozen in time: same twisty slide, same tall jungle gym, and same see saw which was squeakier than ever. And the same swing set, shiny and red in the sun. The little girl from so long ago- or yesterday in playground time- has grown up. That boy with the bright blue eyes had given her a ring with a stone on top that caught the light and threw rainbows on her finger. Like many 36 year olds, she now drives car pools and has cut her long hair short. Once again, she ran to the highest swing but she does not sit on it herself. She lifted a new little girl- her little girl- onto the seat. “Push me Mama!” the new little girl shouted, swinging her short legs that dangle off the swing. The grown up girl smiled at her daughter as she thought about all the times she too giggled in expectation in the exact same way. She stepped behind the new little girl and laid her hands on her back. Before she began to push her, she leaned down close to her daughter’s ear and whispered, “Are you ready to fly darling?” The new little girl wriggled with anticipation. “Yes Mama! Yes, I want to fly!” She yelled. “Then hold on!” And with that, the old little girl pushed her daughter into the sky on the firecracker red swing. She smiled as her daughter embraced the openness of the world, facing the endless possibilities with a laugh. Back and forth, back and forth.


60 more long years now rest on the shoulders of the little girl. And time has finally left its mark on the playground: the slide has bits and pieces broken off. The jungle gym is rusted over and someone finally replaced the squeaky see saw. Even the once glowing red swings had lost a bit of its luster. It has been a long time since the girl has been to here- about a week in playground time- though as soon as she came she felt, if only for a moment, as if she had stepped back into her childhood. Something someone who is 96 years olds sometimes forgets how to do. It had been difficult for the little girl to convince the nurse she needed to come here, to revisit the old playground. The nurse had protested, saying the weather would only make it worse. But the little girl insisted. The nurse wheeled her onto the playground only after she had shrouded her in piles of blankets and two thick winter coats. She could no longer run as she used to but she directed the nurse to the red swings- on the side closest to the highest one. To the impartial eye, the sparkle of the swing had obviously faded over the years but to the little girl it still gleamed as if it had just been doused in a fresh coat of paint. With great effort, she rose out of her chair and hoisted herself, with help from the nurse, into the swing. She gripped the rope tightly, savoring the fell of the metal against the piles of wrinkles on her hands. “Please,” she rasped to the nurse, “push me”. The nurse obediently went behind the old little girl. Just like the man with the coat and grey hair, just like the boy with blue eyes and baseball hat, just like the little girl had once done herself. Softly, the nurse pushed her, being careful not to injure the old little girl’s frail back. Even though the swing hardly moved, the little girl grinned as a faint brush of air kissed her cheeks. A bubbling of emotion rose to her lips and a delighted laugh escaped- the kind she hadn’t had in years. She closed her eyes and thought about the days of when she was truly little and she was first welcomed by the world, a sky that she could tap with her white tennis shoes. Now it seemed, it was time to say goodbye. But she wasn’t afraid. No, she embraced it as she rode on her firecracker swing. The smile of a little girl grew on the old woman’s face as she rode on the bright red swing. Back and forth, back and forth.





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Rememberthebest said...
Aug. 21, 2010 at 12:59 pm
This is amazing! I enjoy reading your work so much and hope that you continue to write!
 
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