The swing that hung in the tree in the backyard behind where my parent's house once stood is still there, untouched after all these years. I sit on it gingerly, testing it out to be sure it can still hold my weight. My father used to joke that I loved this swing too much, that I would play on it for hours. I'd have bruises all over my arms and face and back from falling off and landing face first in the dirt.
I'd missed the swing for the first few years after the house burned down, along with my father and mother. It had been a place to escape from my troubles, where I could imagine myself somewhere far away. I'd close my eyes and pretend I was flying. Sometimes I would let go of the ropes on the swing, and fly forward, tumbling into the soft grass, laughing and giggling, before getting back on and trying again. It was always there when I failed to fly, always willing to forgive my last failure and help me to try again.
Not at all like my father. He was always disappointed in me because I wasn't smart enough for him. He was a high-school dropout stuck in a job he hated but needed in order to support his wife and kid. He smoked and drank and swore. He wanted me to be better, to be someone smart and famous and make lots of money, but instead I was a problem child, slow and stupid. The doctor said I had a learning disability, and I would never be normal. That made him angry.
It made my mother sad. She was always the kinder, more forgiving of the two. She held me when I cried, and put ice on my bruises while my father stormed off, upset, like somehow I was causing him trouble. I've missed her more than I've missed this swing.
The last image I have of her is the melancholy look she'd give me while tending my injuries, like she was resigned to the fate life had chosen for us. She gave me that look one last time the night I snuck into my parent's room and slipped a lit cigarette between my sleeping father's fingers. That resigned look, full of forgiveness and regret for all the years of silence, I will never escape.
I wish she could have seen me ace all my high school math and science classes. I wish she could have seen me place second in my class of five hundred and nine. I wish she could have seen me get full marks on all the standardized tests, and receive a full ride to the state college, where I begin as a freshman in only a week. She would have been so happy to see me finally spread my wings and learn to fly.
Not my father, though. He could only ever see me fall.
This work by Benjamin S Wolf is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.