In My Brain Today (Thursday(
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In My Brain Today: The Value of the Childhood Swing Set

By Leslie Lindsay

[This post originally aired on 5.27.14 on my other site, Repeated here for fun and well, it’s still in my brain].

I don’t know about you, but I have about a million and eight memories on my childhood swingset. Juicy, sticky twin-pops running orange and cheery and grape flavored sugar water down my wrists and puddling in that little space on the other side of my elbow. Of course there was the putting the damn thing together, a project in which I heard my dad curse for the first time, the metal parts lined up a jumble that no man could disentangle.

“Don’t ever say that word,” he cautioned.

“Oh? Okay.” I didn’t even know what gosh-dang-it, or rumpy-pumpy-poo-poo-head meant, but it didn’t sound good. Note to self: don’t put together a swing set lest you’ll spew out words that make no sense.

I recall swinging back and forth on the double-sided glider thing-y and feeling like the whole swing set would pull right out of the ground and topple over because we had two kids and one chunky kid on one side and a single skinny pole-like kid on the other. Balance. All things in balance.

Skipping rungs across the monkey bars did not yield me a monkey, but a cripple. Yes, I twisted down, slapped my forearm on the base of the swing set and–bam–broke my arm. These were the days of heavy plaster casts, mind you and it was the summer I was five. No more swimming or sprinkers for me, and certainly not monkey bars. And when the cast came off, my arm was atrophied, extra-white and smelly. Yes, a lovely dead smell wafted from my monkey arm.

But I got some cool signatures and drawings on that cast, most of them from my parents and Cabbage Patch dolls.

When I was little–really little–I taught myself the ABCs while pumping my teeny cable-knit knee-highs up and down; it was then that I learned lmnop was really one word, onereallylongandsillyword.

Creating a water slide using a hose at the top of the metal and allowing it to rest at the top, the water pouring from the hose down the side of the slide and into the baby pool at the bottom: dumb. The rungs get wet, slick feet do not grip, wedgies ensue. And the ride down: nothing like it was at Wet-Willies.

But here’s the thing: there are a lot of lessons to be learned on the swing set:

  • Life is all about balance
  • And sweet things. Or at least looking for the sweetness as it drips from your blood, sweat, and tears (or, your twinpop)
  • Bad words are bad. They are a disturbing noise to hear from your father’s lips and they are even more disgusting from a child’s.
  • Water makes life delicate. Use with caution.
  • Don’t show off, lest you break a bone and get a smelly arm. And who wants that?!
  • The alphabet is only a series of 26 letters which allows human beings with a properly functioning prefrontal cortex to create an infinite number of words and phrases, stories and songs, and a fantastically satisfying way to express ourselves to the world. And that may be the best lesson of the swing set yet.

That’s it…class dismissed!

[This post inspired by a passage in THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green (2012). See page 124, THE FAULT IN OUR STARS becomes a movie soon–June 3rd and you can bet I’ll be there., swing set image retrieved from on 5.27.14]



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