A Tree and a Rope Sway the Neighborhood

Fifty dollars was a small fortune 15 years ago for a length of thick rope. But the joy it has brought to the neighborhood boys and girls all these years is priceless.

The mature branches of our cottonwood tree were an ideal home for a rope swing. We tied a brick to one end of the thick nylon plait, and after a few tries we managed to toss it high over one of the strongest limbs. And with a slip knot securing it tightly, it has remained safely in place for a generation.

The rope is never still. It is either gently lulled by a whim of a breeze, or whipped by a gust coming off the lake, but more often than not, there is a little person causing the movement. I can just see the rope from my kitchen, but I can't always see who or what is causing it to move.

During those 15 years, the rope has changed its appearance many times. Knots have been added to sit on, stand on, or even to climb up to. Ribbons and lime-green shoelaces have adorned its tail, and once a tire was strung on it. There was also a wooden seat, but that didn't last long. The knots have remained the longest. Double and triple knots at the bottom make a seat that the chubbiest little legs can clasp.

There is no age limit to the rope users. Little ones speed along the sidewalk, throw down their trikes and carts, and make a beeline for the rope. They have a place to go, a focus point. And we know the teen crowd has sneaked in on occasion at dusk for a quiet to and fro on a summer night. Their throaty giggles disturb the still evening air.

When I had the house up for sale recently, my three-year-old friend knocked on my door and asked me to make sure the new owners would keep the rope. I assured her I would. I didn't sell the house. The rope is still there and in full use.

Swinging on a rope is for all seasons. It's there when the party is over, when the Christmas presents cease to delight, or the video has ended. It's there to catch you when you burst out of your front door and run to it and clutch it with all your might and s-w-i-n-g into the air.

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