The Great Flying Swings by Tanja Buzzi,1975

Tanja at ten. My fifth grade teacher, Lance Hall encouraged our class to write stories. He would then read them to the class. Though my home life was very stressful at this time, school was a haven to me. Before puberty and peer pressure set in, I was creative and comfortable with myself—and recognized as a writer!

One fine Saturday, I went down to the carnival.  I bought two rolls of tickets.  First I decided to go on the Ferris Wheel. It was high up, but I didn’t care.  I saw the whole carnival.  Then I went over the concession stand to get some cotton candy and a soda.  After that I went on the Round Up but that was pretty short.  Then I went on the Moon walk and stayed on two tickets long.  Then I was tired.

So I hopped on the Scrambler.  Then I noticed the Flying Swings.  I got off and went on one of the outside swings.  The motor started and I was going around and around.  For some reason, I felt the bottom of the swing, something that felt like a knob.  I pushed it. All of a sudden the chain unhooked and I started to go up, just as if I was a balloon and someone let go of my string.  Well any way, I went up about 10 feet.  Everyone stared at me even the guys that ran the rides were looking up at me. I went up a little higher so I was even with the Ferris Wheel.  I said, “Stop!” and the swing stopped.

I heard a fat lady say, “What shall we do, should we call the telephone company?” That really helps matters, doesn’t it?  Everyone was worried all except me.  I was having a ball!  I could see almost all of Higganum! The people of the Middletown Press and the Hartford Courant came to take pictures and to write articles on me.

The Eye Witness news team came down and did a report on me.  Then a special telegram went to the President of the United StatesMr. Ford came by helicopter.  He landed on the Higganum Green.  Then he saw me and said to me, “How on earth did you get up there?”  I started to explain but everybody started shaking hands and asking him for autographs.

So I pushed the bottom and said, “Take me back home.”  So I went back home.  “Don’t believe me then.”  That’s what I said when I told my family.  Then my sister said, “What do you have to prove it?”  Then I went to my room and got the swing then told it to glide down the stairs and go straight to the family room.  It did.  My family was astonished.  “It was all run by a machine, see the knob and wires?” I said.  I looked around at the swing’s bottom seat.  On it was a mark that said, “Hollywood California, filming.”  It must have been in a place where they had made movies. I wrote to The Middletown Press and to the Courant to get things cleared up.    The end.

Do you remember when you were ten? What were you like? What did you do for fun?  Write yourself a letter from your ten year old self to your present day self.  What would he or she say to you? Advise you to do?

8 Responses to “The Great Flying Swings by Tanja Buzzi,1975”

  1. Stacey G.

    Tann-ya, this is a fantastic story. I love it. Do you remember if Mr Hall liked it? I remember him and his class. 5th grade was a time of really beginning to understand who I was, where I fit in the world, and what it meant to have a moral conscience.

    • tanjabuzzimoriarty

      Thanks! Fifth grade was the year right before my parents’ divorce—a lot of difficult stuff going on at home. I really loved school and Mr. Lance T. Hall. Do you remember rolling the tennis balls down the chalk trays? Roller closest to the line won the tennis ball! He also played piano and we sang about some cats and rats falling to some guys sausage machine! Mr. Hall really encouraged me as a young writer. He was instrumental in enrolling me in a summer program for writer-kids lead by Mrs. Patricia Flood after fifth grade. Remember Mrs. Flood? I can’t remember her maiden name.

      • Stacey G.

        I do not remember the rolling of the tennis balls, nor do I ever remember him playing the piano. He probably did, I just have a really, really spotty memory. I do remember him making a joke when I asked him for some Scotch tape. He said, “Well. Let me see. [rummages in desk] I have some Irish tape. Some German tape. No Scotch tape!” I have a couple of other memories of him that make me realize he really was interested in us a people, as your experience also shows.
        In 6th grade, my teacher was Miss Gigerenzer (sp??) — is that Mrs Flood? Flood is not a name I recall at all.

      • tanjabuzzimoriarty

        Mr. Hall was so much fun! He often talked about his daughter he called, “Peaches.” Mrs. Flood was the other 5th grade teacher back when I had Mr. Hall. Do you remember that Mr. Hall had a very bad brochial problem and he’d stand over a pot of steaming water (in a metal popcorn popper) with a towel over his head and he’d inhale steam? Oh, I think her maiden name was Miss Kirst? Does anyone remember? I had C.J. Serra for sixth grade. At first blush, he was an uptightish, no-nonsense man, who was immecibley dressed, like a lord of manor, or maybe butler?

  2. deb Farrow

    Tanja, What an imagination! No wonder you turned out to be such a good writer.
    Love, Deb

  3. Ginnie Greene

    Tanja, I remember Patty and Lance and C.J. The other sixth grade teacher was Marge DeBold. Diane Gevry left before I was hired.

    I spent much of fifth grade in bed or in the hospital. At the end of January, 1965, shortly after my 10th birthday, I became sick with flu-like syptoms, but eventually I was bleeding internally, losing a lot of blood every day. I was in the hospital for well over a month. No one knew what was wrong. I ate from paper plates with plastic utensils because people feared whatever it was I had. I wasn’t better in the hospital, so they sent me home.

    At home, things were worse. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t digest anything. I weighted 52 pounds as a 10-year-old. I can’t imagine how my parents must have felt. Finally, my doctors decided to give me Prednisone – a new drug – a steroid. It was a less risky treament than surgery – fourteen pills a day! In the meantime, my dad thought it might be a good idea to feed me every hour. A quarter-sized portion of cottage cheese, a piece of bread, some noodles, but nothing bigger than the size of a quarter or half-dollar. Finally, I could eat. The prednisone worked.

    The recovery period was another three months because I had been in bed for five straight months, and I couldn’t walk. The rest of my muscles had atrophied. It was a painful process. My fifth grade self would tell anyone to always trust their parents, They are always in your corner. No matter what, they love you more than anyone else can. The sacrifices my mom and dad and brother made for me must have been adrenaline driven.

    During my time in bed, I learned to play the guitar. My hand muscles were the only ones still working. My dad needed to hear me playing something because music was such a huge part of my life since I was two. It bothered him a lot that I wasn’t able to sing or play the piano (I couldn’t sit on the bench for even a few minutes). I received over 250 get-well cards which I kept. They are in a box now – but I will keep them forever because so many people had so much faith. My friends visited me, even though seeing me so emaciated must have been frightening for them.

    For some reason, I was spared death. I am a stronger person for the experience. I returned to school in September – sixth grade – even though I missed half of fifth grade. I think I was meant to stay with those kids who were so supportive. I hope, in some way, I have made my students stronger and more confident. Everyone faces some kind of adversity in their life – sometimes more than once. I think my fifth grade self has really helped me understand what it’s like to be a suffering child, but it also taught me suffering isn’t a means to an end. Sometimes you have to work at things to have a good outcome, and you have to rely on those people around you who are stronger than you are at the time.

    For you who were my students at HES, I am most grateful to have known you and shared your lives. You have given me more than I ever believe I have given you – and it has made all the difference to me.

    • tanjabuzzimoriarty

      Thanks so much for sharing, Ginnie. You revolutionized the music program at HES when you came in fresh out of college. I will be eternally grateful for that. I remember being very self-conscious and how you encouraged me on my clarinet. Never did go much farther than a sixth grader level, but I remember the kind words. I also love how you turned us all on to the Tommy the rock opera, by The WHO. You made us Higganum kids just a bit more hip back then!


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