Sunday, March 18, 2012

way down yonder

I get so nostalgic in spring. Part of it has to do with living in my home town and having layers and layers of memories attached to places. Take the Chattahoochee River, for example.

When I was a kid, I played here. I waded down those bumpy shores and dug my toes deep in the muddy glop, searching for freshwater clams that I was sure would eventually yield pearls beyond my wildest imaginings.

In high school, I came to the same park, even though it had gone downhill. I climbed trees, had picnics with my friends, and watched the sunset, waiting for boys to kiss me on the deck in the forest.

That deck is gone now. Here's the only part of it I found.

It hurts my heart, seeing the park going downhill yet again. Two of the playgrounds torn down, the climbing tree blocked off by ugly fences.

And yet.

My children stare at the river with the same excitement and longing I felt. They inch down the shore, getting as close to the sluggish water as they dare. They approach the geese warily, despite my warnings that the filthy things are demonic. Just to see what will happen.

It's a strange algorithm, that river. Some things taken away, some things added, some things constant. The horses still switch their tales on the far bank. The rowers still cut through the current. The wind still shakes the trees against the bright blue sky.

The same smell of possibility still rides the air.

And the biggest difference is that there used to be three of us, then there was one, and now there are four.

It's strange, the things that come together to hold you in a place.

If not for this river, there would be no town. My family wouldn't have settled here. I wouldn't have grown up here. After high school, when all my friends were running away to bright lights and big cities, I felt the pull of home instead.

Now here I am again, seeking out the river. The smell of it at night, the rustle of kudzu, the flash of red-winged blackbirds along the shore.

"Don't go too close to the water," I told my children. "There are river gators."

Because that's what my parents told me. Because that's what their parents told them.

Sometimes, I think that's what home is. Not so much the stories that actually happened, but the ones we made up and liked enough to pass on.

(tl;dr: Just watch Big Fish, and you'll get the idea.)



EttyOop said...

This is beautiful.

And it made me wish that there were some sort of nostalgia for my hometown other than "that's where the crappy mall used to be where i'd go with my mom" or "there's where they tore down the restaurant that I used to go to with my grandparents when they were alive -- the one that had been there for decades and decades before they tore it down in the name of progress..."

You're lucky that you grew up in a place like that :-)

mom101 said...

You are in my head. All week I have been thinking about homes and the ones I can't go back to and the ones I don't wan to to go back to. Change is hard for me. I hate ugly reality interfering with perfectly good memories.

Kate said...

I used to go to the Chattahoochee park over off of Medlock Br. during my high school years... I went there with my better half and it's where we've made some of our bigger/better decisions... It's one of the many reasons I came back to Atlanta after leaving for college... I completely understand your draw to it.