I don’t remember asking for a tether ball. I think I remember it being put up by my father—a pole in a tire filled with cement with a ball attached by rope.
It sat in our back driveway turn-around. I would occasionally play with friends—each hitting the ball in opposite directions, trying to wrap the rope around the pole. But usually I hit the ball all by myself, again and again, as hard as I could, wrapping and unwrapping the rope around the pole, one direction and then the other. Always tethered to that pole, firmly planted in cement on my back driveway.
I don’t remember whose idea it was to make a gunny sack swing and hang it from the old cherry tree. But we took a gunny sack and filled it with other gunny sacks so that there was a lump of them at the bottom that we could put our legs around, and tied a knot around the gunny sack with a rope that was strung up on a big branch in the old cherry tree.
Somebody found an especially tall step ladder to use in order to swing higher and save us from having to push each other. It was a twelve-foot ladder (can that be true?). We took turns climbing the ladder, wrapping our legs around the gunny sack and letting go, always with the knowledge that the rope was fraying as it rubbed back and forth against the limb of the tree.
And when my turn came and the rope broke, I fell to the ground and learned what it meant to have your breath knocked out of you. I can still remember how it felt as I lay on the ground with the pain in my chest.
My mother died suddenly and it takes my breath away daily—when I have the impulse to skype with her or when I open my email and find no new news from the extended family from her.
The description that has come to me lately is that I am untethered. She solidly connected me to places, to the people, to memories, and to the past. She tethered me, through reminding me of who I was, in the midst of whatever happened. Relationships among family, long time family friends tied to the various places we lived, and acquaintances were maintained through her no matter how far and wide we flew. She tethered me.
My breath has been knocked out of me and I am struggling to be able to get back up and reattach the gunny sack to the cherry tree and climb the ladder one more time.