It amazes me how I used to survive without having more than five channels on my television. Nowadays, as evidenced by most of the other things I post on this blog, I follow a decent amount of programs. Growing up, however, there were very few things outside of Hercules, Xena, and Saturday morning cartoons that I enjoyed on basic cable. PBS and I were never friends, though I would suffer it on a day with unbearable weather. Instead of watching a lot of television, I had to find my entertainment elsewhere on the farm. Luckily, and sometimes to the farm’s detriment, there was a lot to do and a noticeable lack of supervision. Both of which, I took advantage of.
One of my favorite things to do was to climb the chinaberry trees that populated our back yard. Chinaberries were the best trees for climbing for a lot of reasons. Their trunks split off near the base of the tree, making it easy for those of us who were young and height impaired to get a low foothold. They grew out just as much horizontally as they did vertically, ensuring a lot of sloped branches that I could easily maneuver on. My favorite part was the dense leaves and abundant berries they had, allowing for numerous, well concealed ambushes of passing walkers. Luckily, the branches could not support that much weight at the top, so I escaped a lot of reprisals from would-be attackers.
Another favorite was the old metal swing set we had. As far as simple goes, this contraption could not be beat. On each end were two slanted legs that met at their tops connected by a beam, which two swings hung from. Attached to the set was a metal slide, which only saw use during the spring and fall. Everyone who used it learned quickly to avoid during the summer and winter, as you would either get burned or stick to it while going down. If two people swung hard enough, the legs would pop out of the ground. Normally, this would send the swingers into each other, which of course was the intended goal. The best part, though, was jumping of the swings and seeing how far you could go. One time, I went a little too high, and the swing snapped back. I went flying to the ground backwards, but thankfully, that lack of supervision meant nobody saw. Otherwise, I am sure my swinging would have been regulated a little more closely.
Sadly, times have changed and those fundamental parts of my childhood do not exist anymore. The swing set went back to its original owners my aunt and uncle, because they now have grandkids who use it. In its place, a big wooden jungle gym was built, which had three swings, monkey bars, a plastic slide and a climbing wall. The three chinaberry trees have also all been taken down by now. One had to go to make way for our pool, and the second one for the new jungle gym. The third one, which was my favorite, had to be felled because of Hurricane Isabel in 2003. Even though I was in ninth grade, that one hurt the most. Ultimately, they all hurt a little. These objects were such an integral part of my childhood, so much so, that I want my kids to have similar things in their lives.
Sure, they have been replaced by some great stuff, but I do not have any emotional connection to them. Instead, I swim in the pool, and watch my siblings make memories of their own on the jungle gym. I am also glad to report we now have satellite television, making it a lot easier to watch the shows I love. Still, there are days where all I want to do is go climb a tree and escape from this new and supposedly improved world around me.