Dreams finally come true for Swing and Jerry.
When he got home from school on Tuesday, his dad was already home from work.
“Hey, Son, come in here.” He waved him into the office and told him to have a seat. “I’ve pulled together a few facts and got a friend at work to help us by drawing up a construction plan. I think these will help with your presentation. I made some copies and enlarged them so we can tack them up around the area.”
Jerry looked at the plans and to his surprise, he understood the big picture of what he was looking at. “Wow! Thanks, Dad. This is great!” He was so excited. “I’m going to go up and change and then we should probably leave. I don’t want to be late.”
When they arrived at the town center, he saw his mom and other moms setting out brownies, cookies and large containers of lemonade, and the townspeople milling around eating and laughing and talking together. A generally happy mood surrounded them.
Before Jerry knew it, he was standing on the platform beside the Mayor. He could hear clapping and people calling his name. He held up the mic tentatively and said, “Um, hi y’all. My name is Jerry. I’m the one who handed out the fliers and posters.”
Before he could say any more, the Mayor took the microphone from his hands and started talking in a booming voice. “That was very clever, Jerry.” Jerry looked up at him, and it seemed he was towering over him, his eyes big through his bifocals. “However, I have to wonder just how much time and study you put into this, well, project. I assume you have found resources to cover the expenses of the work you are asking to be done? Or is this supposed to be all done on a volunteer basis? One that could cost the city lots of money.”
Jerry looked out at the crowd, then up at the Mayor and somehow found his voice. “Mr. Mayor, I’ve done some research, and with the help of my dad, what I came up with is posted, along with some diagrams. They’re on the table there in front of the stage.”
People started coming up and looking, talking about Jerry’s project, asking Jerry questions. He was so excited, he kept getting louder and louder until he realized he was shouting over the mayor, who was still talking.
One of the town’s prominent contractors came up on stage and requested the mic from the mayor. He got everyone’s attention, and said, “Jerry, I don’t think you were meaning for this to cost the city any money, were you?” Jerry shook his head solemnly. The man continued, “I think this is a very worthwhile project and the town would indeed benefit from seeing it completed. And I think working together, we can make this happen…” he looked at the mayor… “without any cost to the city.” Then he surprised Jerry when he looked at him, smiling, and added, “You know what, I think if we give it the good ole hometown try, we could break it in with a July 4th celebration. What do I hear from the crowd?” Jerry looked around and couldn’t believe what he heard and saw. Everyone was cheering and pumping their arms in the air.
It was decided everyone interested would meet on Thursday at the contractor’s office at 6:00pm to proceed with plans.
On Thursday evening, most everyone swung by their favorite fast food restaurant and picked up supper before arriving at town hall. When Jerry and his family got there, he was shocked. Nearly everyone was there. It made sense to him that the main construction company foreman would take charge, and take charge he did. By nine o’clock, committees had been formed, equipment had been promised, and a Go Fund the Park account had been set up. They even had about a thousand dollars already donated. It surprised him even more that the underbrush and weeds would be cut down on Friday starting after lunch and the townspeople would arrive Saturday morning to begin cleaning and working. The estimated time for completion was June 15th. WOW! That would give them a couple rain days and still be able to have the big 4th of July celebration.
As they were leaving, the high school coach called for everyone’s attention one more time and announced that he and his team of coaches would work on getting teams together for sports competitions.
Early Friday morning, Jerry went to the Wood to take pictures and talk to Swing. He wouldn’t tell him everything, just that they had a surprise in the works.
Swing was hanging on his rope, watching butterflies, or was it flutterbys — he could never remember — playing around the wildflowers there at the edge of the Wood. “What a beautiful morning,” Swing said, to no one in particular. But wait! “There is someone here, or getting close. I recognize Jerry’s whistling. Oh, yes! I’m having company.”
Just then Jerry came around the corner of the opening. He broke into a run and was almost out of breath by the time he reached his friend. “Whoa, buddy, slow down. I’m right here, just where you left me on Saturday. Is the town on fire? I haven’t heard the alarm, but if it is, can you get me down by yourself?”
Swing was getting himself worked up over nothing. “Swing, I have some news to share with you. Good news. After lunch, some guys are coming out to clear the brambles and undergrowth in the Wood. Folks think it might not be good to have it so close to town.”
“Oh,” Swing said, not understanding all the excitement. “I’m sure that will make it a little more drafty hanging here from my tree branch.” Wait, where had that come from? Swing thought. It sounded like the old Swing, not him. “Hey, maybe I’ll be able to see some of my friends, what do you think?”
Jerry smiled. He could definitely see improvement in Swing. He was anxious to watch his complete change and joy after the work started, and then the completed Park. This is going to be fun, Jerry thought.
Mid-afternoon on Friday, Swing was enjoying the heat of the Springtime sun, when he heard the roar of tractor engines getting louder. He stood very still, listening until he realized they were coming toward the Wood. Within a few minutes, he saw them appear, dropping their brush blades, clearing away the underbrush inside the Wood.
“Careful, guys,” he said, breathlessly, “There’s playground equipment in there!”
But the tractors deftly went around all of Swing’s friends, the little toddler park area, and the bigger pieces, like the slides and merry-go-round. When they drove away an hour later, leaving the Wood in silence again, it was an awful mess! The brush was down and piles of debris lay everywhere. Swing could not imagine what had just happened. Why had they come in and destroyed the Wood? I wonder if Jerry knows about this? He’ll be so disappointed, Swing thought. He drooped on his rope.
Saturday morning dawned bright and cool, a beautiful early summer day. Suddenly, Swing caught his breath, waking up abruptly, hearing the chattering of people coming from every direction! He didn’t know which way to turn. “Wait,” Swing thought, “What’s going on?” He was still groggy, thinking he might be dreaming. But the voices were very real, and in a few minutes, he started seeing families walking into the Wood, carrying hoes and rakes and shovels. Some had hammers and nails, weed eaters and mowers. He turned on his rope, looking every direction, getting dizzy. People were everywhere.
Suddenly, Jerry appeared out of nowhere, and said, “Told ya, didn’t I?” He held Swing in his hand, turning him around and lifting him up a little higher so he could see more of the Wood. It was full of workers. “And we’re planning a BIG celebration on the 4th of July! You’ll be the biggest hit of the day.”
That Saturday wasn’t the last day the town turned out to clean and work on the Park. It wasn’t a Wood anymore. It was a Park again. New coats of paint were put on all the equipment, parts replaced, and a fence went up around the ballpark. People started coming to play again, not just to work.
Jerry and Bobby came out one Saturday, carrying a ladder. Swing was puzzled. They put the ladder up against the trunk of his tree, and Bobby climbed out onto a branch opposite his. Swing watched curiously. A few minutes later, she saw Kate and Jenny walking up, waving at them and carrying another rope and…something else. He couldn’t make out what it was.
He watched wide-eyed as Kate threw the rope over the branch, and Bobby tied it off securely. His heart skipped a beat as Jenny handed Jerry a disc, and they inserted it onto the end of the new rope and tied it off. He felt like his heart was melting, or maybe he was just melting into a puddle of tears.
Jerry walked over to him, and put his hand on his rope, pulling him close. “We got you a friend, old Buddy. What do you think about that?”
When everyone had gone, and summer stars were shining down through the leaves, he looked around at the well-manicured Park and whispered a word of thanks to the Maker. He looked at the other Swing, lazily twisting on its rope, and he thought, “My very own friend. Someone like me who understands.”
He swung himself closer, and said, “Hey. My name is Swing. Hope you enjoy being a part of our new Park!”
I hope you’ve enjoyed this story about Swing as much as I have enjoyed writing it, and experiencing it along with you! I think he will have good friends for many years to come. As an adult now, what childhood memories did Swing bring back to mind for you? Please share with me in the comments below.