There were four of us, teenage sisters having the time of our lives swimming in the Monongahela River in the early 1980’s. One peer beneath the Belle Vernon/Speers bridge was where my sisters and I would locate for the day jumping off a rope that was attached to the cat walk. On another peer was teenage boys from across the water in Belle Vernon. Both groups swam all day, nearly 7 days a week when the weather permitted. I remember those days well as I sit here now 30 years or so later looking back. We all grew up and moved away from the river.
I myself married and had children, never returning to again to the same river until in my late 40’s. Why I waited so long to go back I can’t say, since I’ve been to ten mile creek to kayak many times. I have always loved the water and could have made time; yet I guess I made excuses about babies and ball games and convinced myself that I would get back to the river, someday. And now I have. I go on the river with my paddle-board and have passed under the same peer from which my sisters and I swam.
With a much older body but still a youthful spirit, I know the peace the Mon river delivered, and still delivers. I am engulfed time and again when I paddle out at each bright sky as it reflects down on to the river of my youth. If I close my eyes I still hear the laughing, of giggly sisters about the boys who called us over to their side to swim, and who would show off for us jumping from the cat walk into the water making a canonball splash and a “whoo-hoo!” before going under. I think they wanted us to think they were brave. I myself thought they were crazy. I always wonder whatever happened to them, boys who now that I think about it, were indeed wild! Those days nothing seemed to matter but fun and I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss them, the innocent times.
I am not so old however, to think that I still cannot have great fun on the river. No matter the age, the river offers a sparkle to the spirit that is somewhat different than that of the peace that comes with walking in a forest. Maybe it’s the swimming, splashing, and the smell of a river. Whatever it is, I am glad to be back. We should all have our own river, and if we don’t then we should all visit one now and then, even if it’s just to put our feet in.