10 December 2020
Grant has Lexi’s leash tied to his scooter handlebar – maybe this isn’t a great idea, but…
Helmets on, we zoom side-by-side down the hill, wheels clattering along the rough asphalt. My scooter pulls ahead. Lexi yelps and sprints wildly; she won’t let me get too far away. I am her person.
The scooters are rickety on this road that’s pitted with holes and cracks from the passage of thousands of heavy campers. We cling to the handles desperately to stay in control, teeth chattering, minds scrambling. My hair flies out behind me and lifts off my back, and the wind roars in my ears.
We giggle and squeal, faces split with smiles, to the bottom of the hill where we push hard, turn right, and head for the other loop of campsites.
The idea was to ride both loops once and head back, but as the trees whip by, I notice a clearing at the back side of one of the campsites and slam my foot down hard on the brake over the back wheel, skidding to a stop.
Lexi turns, notices I’m no longer beside her, and halts mid-stride, forcing Grant to swerve to avoid collision. He leaps off: a paroxysm of skinny arms and legs. His scooter crashes in a ditch on the other side of the road, yanking Lexi sideways.
“Mom! You almost killed us!”
“I am so sorry! I didn’t mean to…but look!” I wave my arm at the clearing, where a behemoth playground slumbers – lonely, deserted. Beside it rises the tallest set of swings I’ve ever beheld…as they sway and creak in the gentle wind, their siren call beckons…and I must go.
“Can we hang here for a bit?”
“Uh, Yeah!” His face lights up; my kids always love playing with mom. It doesn’t happen too often anymore since they’ve gotten older.
We pick our way across the rear of the empty campsite, wheeling our scooters by hand through the brush, then break into the clearing.
The space is vast, brilliant in the sun, carpeted with thick grass, and ringed with trees displaying their autumn glory in shimmering metallics: gold, copper, bronze, even rust. September in Metigoshe is nature’s treasure.
Dazzling puffs of cloud crawl across the crystalline sky. Lazy. Relaxed. In no hurry whatsoever.
With the exception of a dog barking intermittently at Lexi from across the clearing, a light breeze ruffling the leaves, and the soft song of the swings, it is blissfully calm.
Grant loops Lexi’s leash over a park bench by a lonely tree at the center of the clearing, and she lies down, panting – all smiles. He goes to explore the play structure while I head to the swing set and hop on.
These swings are perfect: they’re made for bigger kids and hang far enough off the ground that I do not have to squinch up my legs. The crossbar is high, too, so there is maybe ten or twelve feet of chain – plenty of room for a satisfying, long swinging arc.
It’s been years since I’ve swung, and pumping my legs hard to get started reminds me of a night, long ago, at my grandparents’ campground in Avalon, New Jersey. The air was balmy and buggy, but the stars were out – and I let the trees above me become a blur before them, as I swung alone for what seemed an eternity, listening to the kids at the social event in the barn…listening to the teenagers across the field hanging on the old wood fence, flirting and laughing. The solitude was at once upsetting and soothing. I didn’t know any of those people, and that carried with it deep disappointment. I am always an interloper. But then, the swing made it not matter quite so much. The sensation of moving through the air blots out darker feelings.
Today is much the same: flying through the air, I can let go of the unfinished planning and ungraded papers. I can let go of the uncertainty of not knowing if I’m good enough or if my students are actually learning. I can pretend Brian’s not disappointed he never caught a fish on his birthday. I can release my frustration that Keira would not come with us on the scooters. I can just…be.
I can feel.
Eyes tearing, hair tickling my face, I roll my head backwards. At the bottom of the sweeping arc, my hair trails on the ground, flicking up mulch, and the bottom drops out of my stomach like I’m on a rollercoaster. Dizzy, crazed, I pump harder, go higher, fly faster. At the upper limit of my arc, I push so high that there’s a moment when my body begins to lift off of the seat and chain, weightless – for that moment, I imagine myself as a bird, soaring without limits. But then I’m reminded I don’t have wings as I drop like a rock with full confidence that the seat and chain will rescue me. Adrenaline rushes to my scalp, fingertips, the backs of my calves. It’s my body’s instinctual response to a near-death experience, and I let it wash over me, course through me, until it is gone.
I am alive. I can feel. Sometimes, this is everything.