This I Believe

Paul - Vallejo, California
Entered on November 4, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

There is an abandoned lot near my house where swing sets are brought to die. There you will find the rusted remains of slides, monkey bars, and other assorted playground equipment. The swings sets have long since relinquished their seats, and their chains hang spaghetti string loose. A hulking merry go round is tilted and half buried in the dirt, taking on the appearance of a flying saucer crashed to earth. Its closest neighbor is a bent metal see-saw – knarled and twisted like an ancient, arthritic finger.

It was purely accidental that I came upon the swing set graveyard, while on a walk one day. My first reaction was as an elderly man might feel, arriving unexpectedly at the beloved house where he grew up – only to find it collapsed in ruin. The memories of his childhood disrespected in the form of rotted wood, peeling paint, and silent abandonment.

I felt sad for the swings no longer able to swing, for the slides no longer smooth and shiny. For the merry go round as still as the dried dirt around it.

I wondered if the old swing sets yearned for the shrieks and laughter of little children?

But as I looked closer at the aged equipment, I noticed a kind of peacefulness. Maybe it was just that I was conditioned to associate age and silence with death, and not with life?

I began to envision spirits of the lonely wandering to this place at night, reclaiming their carefree and childlike energy, and surrounded by friends and fresh adventures on the playground of their youth.

Suddenly the swings appeared whole and the slide glistened in the moonlight. The spirits and their memories became real again, cavorting and romping freely. They were building sand castles and racing excitedly across the monkey bars. Some fell down in a dizzy bliss as they stagger off of the whirring merry go round.

All is as it once was on those long, warm summer days, with blue skies and puffy clouds overhead and the siren call of an ice cream truck approaching in the distance. It was play-filled and perfect, and I imagined it continuing until daybreak.

These days when my walks bring me to the place where the old swingsets rest, I am no longer sad. Instead I am filled with a sense of anticipation for the gathering of happy memories. And I know that if ever I feel alone and abandoned, I will be welcomed back here for endless play. Unlike at the graveyard, death is not present. Here there is only a resigned sense of waiting for the play to begin again.

This I believe.