The River. For the MM, the river conjures up his Tennessee mountain memories of the Emory River and his MaMaw, who taught him to sit quietly for hours as that river's water lapped his feet, to patiently cast and re-cast as he sat on the shore or waded in to his thighs. He learned to swim in the Emory, spent long days drifting on makeshift rafts from one house to the next and the next until he was so far downstream someone had to go pick him up. In the days before his father died, my MM sat with him on the banks of that same river.
For me? The river does bring up murky memories of fishing with my Papa (twice, and one of those times, he made my sisters and I sit at the shore while he paddled away in a boat to a quieter spot). However, the river holds many more unwelcome memories. Drunks who don't have the gas money to get to the lake. Trashy, uneducated people who cuss like sailors, smoke and drink to excess, and destroy everything in their paths. Nasty smells, filthy sights, and a wasteland of debris.
But who am I to deny my MM his day at the river? Especially when he packed up the cooler all by himself, spent an hour finding the exact spot of a dam he'd heard about, and then loaded everything into the truck by himself. I finally put on my swimsuit and climbed into the passenger seat determined to keep a positive outlook.
My family played; I cleaned. Beer bottles and cans, plastic plates and cups, fast food and styrofoam containers, paper and plastic bags, candy wrappers, old socks, a pair of ripped men's underwear. You name it and I found it down at the river.
*Please tell me you will. Tell me that when you see the end result of laziness and disrespect for our natural resources, you'll take 10 minutes to grab a bag and just clean it up. Because a broken beer bottle and a candy wrapper on the bank of the Cape Fear can become so much more once it hits the water. You're with me, right?