When I was little, I was a flying champion swinger. I could swing for hours and hours, a little aspiring trapeze artist, although we only had about 13 minutes of recess. And that was only if we weren’t made to stand silent on the painted footprints on the black- top, our backs turned toward the screaming delight of our classmates. Standing silent on the those footprints meant we had gotten our names on the board with a check, and possibly two checks if we had been especially naughty. Our music teacher, Mrs. Gish, was constantly putting our names on the board. It was just that she was a source of ridicule. She had been seen, at some legendary date, putting what we thought was lipstick, on the tip of her nose, where a small wart lived. She was seen, probably by a sixth grader, the source of all things known and unknown in the school, applying some cosmetic while hiding behind a cubby in the band room. From then on, we third graders had a really hard time singing for her, playing our recorders for her without short bursts of contagious laughter behind her back. She could only guess who had started it. And so it went that the last child left smiling when she looked up from the piano, was sent to stand on the footprints at recess.
When I was not in trouble, I would often participate in the flying contest. It was not so much about the swinging, as it was about the leaping off from your swing and landing on your feet, no matter how badly the stab to the heel and then up to the knees. To win you had to land on your feet and from a great height, furiously pumped. There was the one, two, three, and all would leap that forbidden arc. One day, when I was involved in this contest, feeling quite confident in my abilities, I found myself flat on my back and unable to move.