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Summers in the River

May 27, 2009

            There was a time when summer vacation meant family road trips to the mountains of Georgia, or Alabama, or the Carolinas, or anywhere else to escape the uncharacteristic Floridian landscape we lived in. Back then, it was car rides that were too long, my mom and dad in the front seats because they were still together, speaking in quiet tones as my siblings and I lay sleeping in the back of the van. Back then, it was big cabins along dirt roads, with grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins crowded in the living room and kitchen with a cacophony of voices and noises, family traditions unfolding before my youthful eyes.  And always, we found a cabin by a creek.

            In our eyes, my cousin Terry and I were not children. We were fearless adventurers, and sometimes aliens, and other times super heroes, but always an inseparable duo. We donned our water shoes in the unbearable anticipation that only children can muster. We were accompanied, as always, by our siblings and also joined by the necessary adult supervision. But we barely noticed them as we raced toward the small, steadily drifting river. You could hear the gurgle!, bubble!, splash! calling you onward before you even saw the water. Reaching the edge, I stepped one foot into the water and felt the thrill of its freezing temperature race up and down my frame. Clenching my fists, I gingerly took another step, and another, and another, and the shallow water raced around my ankles. The creek was full of sand and pebbles, interrupted by the occasional larger rock, sending the current swirling around it girth when it collided with the stone. Climbing onto and standing as firmly as I could upon a slippery, scum-covered rock, I was the queen of the river, and it was my fortress.

            I was brought back to reality when I was beckoned: “Let’s go, Amy.”

            We trod down the river together, clumsily sloshing through the mud and water. Tall trees surrounded the length of the creek, forming a dark canopy over us. The sun occasionally found a gap in the leaves to peek through, casting patches of shadow and splotched patterns upon the glassy surface. The river chatted and laughed with us as we moved along. Terry and I paused to turn over rocks and chase the surprised crawdads that had lost their hiding place. When we managed to catch them, we held them up in triumph, wary of their armored claws, and dropped them back into the water with a plop. Along the way we found many oddities by the shore: flat tires, broken furniture, and even an old rusted car. Its door hung ominously open, revealing the darkened, rotting interior. My big sister, older cousin, Terry, and I made up ghost stories that would keep us awake that night, about highway robbers and convicts who crashed their car into the creek while attempting to escape the police. Our young imaginations were wild with tales, fueled by ordinary objects that we made extraordinary. We hiked down the river until we were too tired and hungry to continue. Turning around, we all made our way back to the warmth of the cabin, ready to raid the pantries to satisfy our adventurer’s stomachs. Finally reaching the cabin, we left the river behind, water shoes soaked and heavy, the sun warm upon our faces.

            Back then there were creeks, but now we stay in St. Augustine mostly, and we vacation by the ocean in the summer’s heat. Having grown up in Florida, there is a special place in my heart for the mighty sea, a green-blue beast clawing at the sandy shore. But even that creature cannot overtake the place in my heart reserved for the silvery, winding rivers that flow from the mountains, calling me back to once again don my pink water shoes and traverse down its length, returning to my place as queen of the river.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. writerworks permalink
    June 1, 2009 3:49 pm

    i admire your adventurous spirit. keep writing, i’m loooking forward to writing more. you do the things, i fear.

    god bless you,

  2. Anita Simpson permalink
    June 1, 2009 7:20 pm

    This is wonderful, Amy…..caused some smiles, tears & laughter.

  3. Shirley Holbrooks permalink
    June 4, 2009 2:33 pm

    Amy, you have a remarkable command of words /language , your writing flows like poetry. thank you for reminding us of those happy times

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