I have been asked many times over the last year and a half what prompted me to write the story of Nana's Magic Swing. There were two things. The first was that many years of working in child welfare and of being a parent and grandparent taught me that it is not always easy to find the words to talk to children about difficult or challenging issues. The second was a conversation I had with our son Graham as an adult.
He told me about a game he played with his great grandmother, Nana, on the lawn swing in the corner of her yard. She would ask him where he wanted to go and how he wanted to get there. He would pick the place and the means of transportation. The swing-turned-magic-carpet, or whatever means he chose, would take them anywhere in the world he wanted to go. Along the way Nana would talk to him about all of the things they were seeing until they landed back in the corner of the yard. What a wonderful way to learn about the world!
I had never heard the story of the Magic Swing game before. It caused me to think about Nana and the relationship my siblings and I had with her growing up on the same farm yard she lived on. I remembered running across that yard, opening the shiny silver gate and running down the sidewalk to the same white house with the bright red door. I thought about how lucky we were and how very cool it was that Graham remembered her and their special game. And then I flashed back to Graham in the backseat of our car as a little boy immediately following Nana's funeral, asking the question "How is Nana going to breathe in that box”?
I thought to myself "What an excellent question, and how many children would wonder about it, but not ask"?
I spent my whole childhood wondering what the tuffet was in the Little Miss Muffet poem, and never asked.
If I never asked about something as innocuous as a foot stool, how many children have wondered silently about death and funerals and all of the puzzling things associated with them? How many parents, in the midst of their own grief, lack the time or the words, or are afraid of upsetting their children? How many organizations dedicated to working with childhood grief could use additional resources to support children in times of loss?
The first draft of the story was easy to write. But it took many years, multiple edits, testing it on the grandchildren, family and good friends before finally deciding it was ready to even look into publishing. As it turned out, that was only the beginning...