The Poetry of Childhood

The scent of lilac takes me right there – swinging in the backyard of our old house on Stadium Street. When I was little, how I loved to trot out there away from all of my older sisters and my big brother and swing all by myself. There was a lovely row of lilac bushes that stood between the swingset and the house, and I could go back there and swing to my heart’s content – into the deep sweet smell of those lovely blossoms, into the arms of the clouds and the blue sky, into the warmth of Spring, into the soft rut under the swing. “Up in the air I go flying again, up in the air and down.”

lilac.jpg Now my mother was a fifth-grade teacher, and she always had her students memorizing poems. We memorized poems around the house too, because that was just what we did, us Combses. I am pretty sure everyone in my family knows at least 10 poems by heart. I love that about us.

As I have mentioned before, I spent a lot of my youth pouring over Robert Louis Stevenson’s “A Child’s Garden of Verses“. Here is one of my favorites of these poems, and I used to say it to myself as I swung in those lilac-scented afternoons.

AChildsGardenofVerses copy

The Swing

How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside—

Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown—
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!

-Robert Louis Stevenson

Even as a child, I thought the word “pleasantest” was so funny – so proper, so fancy.

The other day I was walking my dog in the park and I saw a hipster teenage boy swinging all by himself. He looked so happy. I might have to jump in there myself, next time the swings are empty.


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