Took It All Down

Written in Spring 2013

We play this game, Mia and I. The swing set is in the corner of this pristine backyard, close to the flat wooden fence that’s covered in vines. The vines are the neighbor’s, I suppose. They’ve grown up and over and are leaking down over these flat wooden boards, and we’ve taken them captive now. We swing and the old play set creaks and groans because we’ve long outgrown slide and sandbox and our feet hit the wood chips when we try the monkey bars. We’re too big. But we swing and we play this game.

The rules are simple, really. One leaf, one little slip on this vine of green, is marked with the Sharpie Mia’s borrowed from the kitchen drawer. You’ve got three tries, three attempts, to grab the marked leaf. Three swings on this old swing set. That’s the premise. That’s the game. We added more rules as we grew older. Now there are points and scores and stipulations we’ve incorporated into this backyard swing set game. And the dog across the fence barks because he can hear us yelling and laughing, and our feet swing high over the fence with every leaf-grabbing attempt, and the other cousins, the other kids, they’re somewhere else. They’re too old for the swing set. We’re all too old for the swing set.

But the swing set is gone now. Just a year ago they took it all apart like they put it all together when Mia wore my hand me down dress, bare preschool feet on hot backyard patio. They took it all down and gave it to someone else, someone not too old for a backyard swing set. And years before, when Mia was an angel-eyed toddler that I tried so hard to hold in my child arms, our great grandmother passed away. And we went to the little house, the little house that suddenly felt too big. We all went, and my mother and my grandparents worked, while I played alone in the back room.

They gave me a box of old cards. A shoe box of greeting cards that my great-grandmother had received. They saved the best ones, the near and the dear ones. And the other cards, well, they gave them to me. Eight years old, I sat on the sharp green carpet in that screened-in patio and I played with those cards. Cut them, colored them, organized them, created with them. And out in the living room, the bedroom, the kitchen, the mother and the grandparents, they took it all down. They packed and cleaned and boxed, and they took that little house right apart.



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