I was walking through the playground near my house when it beckoned to me. The swing, that is. I was never a climbing across monkey bars kind of kid, but a swing was one of life's great inventions. I looked around — I was alone. I walked to the swing, plopped down and pushed off, slowly at first. But it didn't take long before I was stretching my legs to get maximum height and throwing back my head to feel the freedom of it all. I felt ageless, weightless, fully energized, and so happy. A woman with a toddler walked past toward the baby swing. She was smiling at me, but I felt awkward now. The toddler was eyeing me strangely. I did a hard foot stop, got off the swing, feeling silly. That's when I saw the sign:
ONLY ADULTS IN THE COMPANY OF CHILDREN ARE PERMITTED ON THE PLAYGROUND
It went on to mention that adults weren't to use the equipment either. I slumped off, all my glee gone, a rejected, misunderstood middle-aged swinger. I wanted to say to someone, look, I write for children. Well, not little children, exactly, but lots of my readers can't drive yet. I'm always in the company of kids, metaphorically speaking.
And then I thought about what Jesus said: "Unless you become as a little child you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven." What distinguishes childhood anyway? Things like trust and love and not being so worried about what other people think. Kids have the capacity to fully embrace mystery; the sweet forgetfulness to make up instantly after a fight; the ferocious focus to catch fireflies.
I thought about my inner child and how I needed to listen to her more. She was talking deep: "Joan, do something fun. Get a cupcake." I obeyed instantly and when I got home holding my moist red velvet cupcake, another thought came to me — put out your Easter egg collection. I wasn't going to do it this year– I've been traveling so much, I had so much work to do, but I got the eggs out that I've collected for thirty-some years — the ones from Africa, Sweden, Croatia. I put them in a clear bowl on my table and stepped back so satisfied as new life surged through me. I've got to listen more.