The nest of branches above provides shade from the summer sun as I swing in the quiet backyard. I’m not used to being all alone out here, but that’s alright because Nana is inside. Besides, I didn’t even have to run the fastest to reach my favorite swing first today.
Although it may look like an ordinary swing to most, my swing is anything but ordinary. It doesn’t matter to me that the white vinyl seat is speckled with stains, or that the chains that suspend it are creaky and rusted over. This swing happens to be the highest swinging swing around, especially compared to the one that dangles pitifully beside it.
I watch Nana’s figure through the window. She’s swatting flies that have found their way to her blueberry muffins on the kitchen table. She’s whistling one of her tunes. I wish I could whistle that way, with those low dips and high-pitched trills. And her lips never seem to tire the way mine do. She says it’s because she’s Irish and that she’d be delighted to teach me, but I’d have to practice a lot.
I’m swinging high, so very high, and I lean my head back, close my eyes, and extend my legs out as far as I can. I feel dizzy as I shift back and forth between the sky and trees that hang overhead. In an instant, one hand loses grip and my bottom slides off the seat – my favorite seat – and I’m soaring backwards, finding myself flat on a moss and leaf covered heap.
I lie there stunned for what seems like a very long time because nothing like this has ever happened to me. There’s a pain in my left arm, a pain I’ve never known in my seven years of living. I gather myself up, dead grass and twigs twisted into my hair, and I call for Nana while running towards the house.
Her eyes widen when she sees me and she leans in close, putting her hands on my shoulders. I pull my bad arm close to my chest and tell her what happened. She nudges me to the sofa, where I sit rigidly and try hard not to cry. She leaves and quickly returns with a bag of ice, which she presses against my sore arm. Just leave it there awhile, she tells me.
For the rest of the day, Nana’s brow is low on her face and she doesn’t sit. She wonders aloud if she should take me to the hospital. Papa comes up from the cellar and Nana tells him, maybe she broke it. Just give it time, he says with a thick brogue, for it’s sure to be just bruised.
Night falls and I’m still pressed against the couch, which I hate, but Nana keeps telling me not to move much – just in case. She delivers me a chicken pot pie, my favorite. And when she sees my eyelids begin to fall, she startles me and tells me not to fall asleep – we are going to the hospital.
I sit straight up. I’m wide awake now. I’ve never been taken to the hospital before.
We ride off into the darkness, out of the country and into the city. When we arrive, she holds my good hand as she leads me through the door, then to a desk, and finally to a room of our very own.
After some time, we leave and make our way back home, the city lights disappearing behind us. It’s after two a.m., but I’m not tired at all. I sit in the backseat and run my good fingers across the hard white shell that will cover my arm for the next six weeks. The doctor had said it was broken – split right down the middle of the bone! Nana says loads of people will want to sign it. I look down, imagining it scribbled with all the names of people who will surely want to know what happened. She says I need to keep it dry, and I wonder how I’ll do this since I’m in the lake every day. Don’t you worry, she tells me, we will tie a bag around it.
It’s early morning when she tucks me in. The worried look from her face is gone and I’m glad. I smile and she smiles back as she leans in with her familiar kiss on my forehead. Go to sleep, she says, closing the door behind her. And in the dark, I place my good hand over my shell and I close my eyes. And, like Nana told me to, I go to sleep.
The lake in the small town where I spent my childhood summers with my Nana and Papa…