Meramec River Boys – A Sequel to Black River Boys
D. J. Heatherly / July 27, 2014
Happy smiles from a proud grandma greet my grandsons upon their arrival.
I hug them hello feeling tight little arms wrap around my soul.
First things first.
They remove their shoes and run inside to assess the sleeping arrangements.
Well-taught and well-mannered.
They know the rules of the Raptor as instructed by Vernon.
Dylan climbs up the loft with his pillows and his thoughts.
Devin quickly follows.
Together, they stretch out for a total of 3 minutes, planning their next move.
Zip down the ladder, zoom out the door to explore.
An old cedar swingset sits 500 yards away.
We keep them in our sights giving them their space.
Two brothers swing and giggle uninhibited.
I join them.
Fearless, Devin swings willy-nilly in an attempt to hit the swing posts.
I grab a pair of ankles to suspend Dylan in mid swing.
A tangible memory floods my senses.
A palpable push that propels me back in time.
I recall how I swung them as toddlers.
I describe the feel of their tiny backs as I gently pushed, reminding them to hold on tight, and to swing their sweet, skinny legs.
I tell them how much they liked to be swung by Grandma.
Dylan says, “Show me.”
I grab his 9 year old ankles. Stronger now, and capable of hiking, running, tree climbing, pedaling.
I grab a hold and push him back, then, I run behind him, grab the swing to delay momentum, which always made him nervously giggle when he was a tot. He roars with delight.
Love flourishes when laughter abounds.
Devin wants the same, of course, so I repeat the process.
“Again” they say in unison just as they did years ago.
Their legs are now too long for a swingset however who can resist reliving past moments?
Later, after dinner, it’s back to the old swingset again.
Perched in the swing, Dylan is stretched out, laid out parallel to the ground.
“Look at the sky!” he yells with wonderment.
I look up to see a jet black night glittering with silver stars.
At that moment my sweet mom is with me.
I tell the boys my belief that stars are the energy and spirit of good people who have left this earth.
“Yes. I know.” Dylan says. “My grandma Jean is up there. And dad’s dad, Chuck.”
I want to cry. Instead I smile and hug him and Devin tight.
Early morning awakens us. We eagerly prepare for a 6-mile float.
Skin slathered with SPF. Skulls protected with bandanas.
A school bus like none they have ever ridden awaits us.
Loaded with coolers full of beer. And adults full of excitement.
Cracked windows with a solitary spider hanging on for dear life on a web.
Blows into the bus as the bus driver picks up speed careening around a corner.
I scream as Bobby rescues us by closing the window.
Startled by a loud pop, we all jump in our seats!
Dylan’s window has been hit.
Realizing it was a water balloon thrown by a random camper, we all laugh.
Except Dylan is not laughing. He barely manages a smile.
I imagine the many scenarios running through his head. All the questions he has. All the reasons. Why was it his window? All the what-ifs. He is a deep thinker.
Scramble to the raft.
Attach tubes to the raft for the kids, to which Dylan and Devin’s faces say it all before they even speak it.
Scared of snakes striking. Fear of fish biting.
“It’s an adventure” I encourage.
They bravely get in their tubes and we take off!
We move at a snail’s pace.
Dangling legs in the murky Meramec River.
Fear of unknowns’ unseen in the water.
Anxiety overwhelms Dylan.
“We are survivalists!” I tell the boys, as I get in his tube as he takes my place in the raft.
“Ahhh, this feels sooo good.” I smile. And it did, so happy to share this day with them!
In a valiant attempt later, Dylan gets back on a tube.
Trepidation of turtles. Worry about the white water.
“Lift your bottoms up.” His mom and I say together approaching faster moving “rapids” so river rocks would not bump them.
Dylan straightens his entire self out on top of the tube, elongated and nearly hyperventilating with worry.
We laughingly decide it is time to give up the tubes.
Eight people and 2 coolers in a 6-man raft.
The tubes glide empty behind us as we fill up the raft with gaity and contentment.