Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Broken Chain

There is this tree is in my grandparents’ backyard. It has always been there for as long as I can remember. There used to be another tree directly across from it, but it is no longer there. I have no idea what happened to that one. It probably had to be removed because it had taken all of the pressure and pulling one tree can take.

That tree and the missing tree were the anchors for the hammock we used to love to swing on at my grandparents’ house. We sometimes would ALL pile on there to see if it would hold us up. Most of the time, it did. I do recall one time when the chains broke and down we fell (luckily there were so many of us, we really didn’t have far to fall…) but my cousin, Tricia, bit her tongue pretty hard and it bled for a long time. I remember being very surprised that hammocks could be dangerous (because, clearly, it was the hammock’s fault).

We looked forward to getting to my grandparents’ house not just to see all of our extended family, but to put the hammock up. We were totally bummed if it was raining when we got there, or if, for some unknown reason, we were told we could not put the hammock up that day.

The hammock was not just a hammock to us though. It represented so much more. It was freedom from the grown-ups who made us quit yelling, running, fighting, or whining (I COMPLETELY see their point now and have no idea why I was so confused by all those rules then). The hammock defied the very laws of nature (ok, not really, because the chains were tough and installed properly)…but to a young mind, it did not make sense that it would really hold me up. And with every trip to that house, that first attempt to get on the hammock always came with a bit of nerves about whether it would really do its job and keep me suspended in the air (I guess that perhaps Tricia’s bleeding tongue may have tainted my mind slightly).

We could swing for hours out there—laughing at boys, telling jokes, dreaming dreams, or wondering if we could sneak back into the kitchen undetected and get some more dessert. We would try to hold on while someone else tried to spin the hammock round and round (I have no memory of that actually being successful). We would complain about the injustices of life, like not being able to wear blue eye shadow; how we couldn’t date til we were 16; why we couldn’t have a phone in our room. We hit the deep subjects out there on that hammock. But we didn’t just complain! We were solution seekers too. And we had it all figured out. We would run away and live on our own. And buy our own hammock!

Now, I don't know how many of my cousins have their own hammock now, but I know I don't and my siblings don't either. We do all live on our own though, so we have already reached 50% of our childhood dreams. Not too shabby.

When I went back to my grandparents' house a few weeks ago for my grandfather's funeral, one of the first things I looked for outside were the trees and hooks for the hammock. I think somewhere deep down I was hoping we could have one last swing in that hammock. (which would have proved very difficult without that other tree...) But we did find this:

And my cousin Caroline and I both started to laugh and reminisce about all those crazy times hanging out in the hammock. That chain may be rusted and old, but those memories seemed as fresh as if it had all just happened.

So we all gathered, probably for one last time, in the spot where that treasured hammock hung...

I am thinking since my parents live in the hammock capital of the world now, that my siblings and I may have to invest in a hammock so the tradition can live on...

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