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Occupy Childhood, or How I Learned to Love the Moment

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Whit Honea
Whit Honea

The homemade swing set consists of four small seats attached to a mechanical clothesline of backyard magic, each hung securely from arms that once led restless ponies in a futile waltz beneath the shade of a sycamore tree. Then time passed, the leaves fell, and the horses had all been broken. The arms stretched out, empty and useless, teased by the want of the wind and forgotten by everything but promise.

However, life is full of second chances, and now those arms embrace my boys, equally restless, who swing beneath them daily. It is the same as it always was, and as fresh as the first time. They take their seats and assume the position. Then the motor kicks on and the swings start turning to the right in a soft, careful circle. It is their spotlight. It is as wide as a slow dance and twice as wild. Their hearts beat accordingly. They pass me by again and again. The only thing that changes is the calendar.

Today I stood there, just out of reach, matching my smile to theirs as they waxed and waned like carefree hands upon a faceless clock. I glanced at my watch and got lost in a metaphor.

"They grow up fast," said someone, somewhere. Again. Or perhaps it was me. It is all a blur to the sprint of childhood, and try as I might, I cannot keep up. I can only shout words of encouragement and hand them a cup of something cold to drink every time they lap me. Sometimes, I run onto the track with a bandage. Sometimes, I tell them to get up and keep going. Sometimes, my back is turned and I miss what was surely their finest moment. Their tireless gallop pulls my gaze straight into the midday sun.

The temptation when blinded by brilliance is to turn away and stare down the paths they took in getting here, now trodden and threatening to be forgotten. It is the magnetism of melancholy, the desire to skip again upon ground now paved in milestones and littered in memories. It is an apparition, a ghost of spring where there is always fresh grass growing through the cracks and birds singing songs that the children left.

It hangs there like a painting.

But the swings keep spinning, just like the rest of us, allowing the riders to see where they are going and where they have been. It is a constant trip forward and everything they have seen before is new again. The boys call to me each time they pass, their smiles pure as morning.

They are my anchor in the now -- the reality between dusty scrapbooks and the choices yet to be made. Postcards and dreams are best saved for rainy days and quiet conversations. Yesterday can wait and tomorrow isn't going anywhere. All they have is swinging in the moment, and it is everything they need it to be.

I watch them catch the tail of their laughter, and then I watch them set it free again.

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This post originally appeared on Honea Express.