Elizabeth turned 8 this month, and all I need to do is take one look at her swingset to realize how much she’s grown.
When we bought the cedar-framed swing and slide combo, she was only a preschooler. Initially, she would scale the ladder like a champ then shoot down the slide at warp speed. The first day or two, she would become airborne as she left the bottom of the slide and then land in the dirt on her duff with a thud. It didn’t take long for her to learn to stick the landing.
In those days, we had to push her to keep her swinging. It seemed to take an unusually long time for Lizzie to learn to coordinate her arms and legs to keep the swing going on her own. Now she swings with ease, crosses the monkey bars like a pro and truthfully looks a bit large up in the “clubhouse.”
Over the years, we have embellished the swingset with age-appropriate accessories, changing out the baby swings for big-kid swings, adding a periscope here, binoculars there and a pirate ship steering wheel to the crow’s nest.
Lately I’ve been noticing the swingset sees less and less action. A spider moved into the airspace inside the binoculars, rendering them useless. The periscope appears to be lost, and nobody ever spins the ship’s wheel and cries out, “Land ho!” anymore. The only thing that gets used these days is a trapeze my husband added. Liz likes to hang upside down from it, her long hair nearly reaching the grass as she stops my heart with death-defying stunts.
We recently had a discussion about dismantling the swingset. Just the thought of it makes me sad. Sure it would be nice to have that open space back, but it’s a milestone I hate to see pass.
Looking at it the other day, I recalled the many hours we spent up there, both good and bad. The sandbox under the slide has become overgrown with weeds, and bugs have invaded its four corners. But there was a time when that spot of faux beach was Lizzie’s pride and joy.
My husband lined the bottom with fabric, filled it with clean playground sand, and custom-built a heavy wooden cover that fit tightly over it to keep invading bugs and cats out for good.
Some days Elizabeth buried stones and shells, then dug them up again, pretending she was at the seashore. Other days, she rode a yellow metal toy digger, a hand-me-down from an older cousin, like a construction foreman, filling the bucket with sand and moving it from here to there.
One afternoon when we were ready to call it a day, I decided to cover the box myself. Usually this was a job saved for my husband, because of the sheer size and weight of the cover. But today I was feeling independent. I maneuvered the heavy wooden cover over the box and prepared to drop it into its tight-fitting frame. I ordered Lizzie to stand back, then released the cover, pulling my hands out as fast as I could.
Well, I wasn’t fast enough. One finger got caught in the sandbox trap. I cringe just remembering it. There was no way to raise the lid with my free hand alone, and it seemed I could not wiggle the other finger loose. One quick look told me my finger was swelling, so I had to do something fast.
“Run to the house and call 911!” I told Lizzie, thinking of those shows where pre-schoolers save their parents’ lives.
But I quickly came to my senses. There was no way I was going to have a team of local paramedics and an ambulance show up in my front yard to free me from a sandbox. Not happening.
“Never mind. Wait a minute. Let me think. Quick, call Daddy!” I said. Lizzie looked at me with a panicky look. At that moment I also realized she couldn’t reach the house phone.
“No, forget it,” I said. “I’ll do this myself.”
I looked away, clenched my teeth and ripped my finger out of the sandbox trap in a flash. I was afraid to look at my digit, imagining it was just a bloody bone devoid of flesh. But when I sneaked a peek, much to my surprise, it was still there - puffy, purple, and completely intact.
“Can you bend it, Mama?” Lizzie asked.
I tried. Why, yes I could, I realized happily. Apparently there were no breaks, I informed my little Doc McStuffins. Thanks for asking.
“Do you need an icepack?” she asked sympathetically.
Yes, most definitely.
Needless to say, that was the last day I ever put the cover on myself.
So though I certainly will miss the swingset, I will not miss the sandbox that lived under it. Nope, not one little bit.
And the beat goes on.