The sand is warm and the water is all buttered up with a thick layer of afternoon sunshine. The boys and I. At the river. A warm-weather ritual, you see. With my head on a sun-bleached driftwood log I listen to the lapping sounds of the water, the whooshing of trees behind me and the boys. Do you know what the elves are saying, Tony? They set out to explore the banks and with them Sasha’s words hop like bunnies. Hiding in the bushes. I’ll never know what the elves are saying and it makes sense somehow that some things are only meant for a brother to hear. Fair enough. Elves world.
It was love at first sight, three and a half years ago or so. I was accompanying Tony and his Boy Scout group on a walk along the Fraser river banks. Sasha was just about bidding goodbye to his beloved blue sling. We both were. To the sling and so many other things with it. That late fall early evening did it. The musty air soaked mud, reeds, tall bushes of almost withered blackberries and the old wooden bridges. That thick ribbon of water draped over sandy banks was, unbeknownst to me, infusing every part of my being with a promise. To be back. And I did, the next summer. And the summers after. I never understood the meaning of homecoming parties until then. That summer was spent at the river. I wrote, I read, I thought and remembered. The boys played, swam in mud, explored the woods, got lost in there, proclaimed the river theirs and dressed old green river boulders in hot clay.
A huge barge pulled by a mighty small tug boat – it’s quite amusing to see those David and Goliath combinations – produces waves that tickle the air and make burrows in the sand near our feet. Two small mountains of sand separated by a bulldozer plopped on the barge. Is that sand, mom? Yes, it is. I know, it’s for a sand box, right? He knows. Sasha’s contentment to have found the perfect explanation is so solid is almost tangible. Tony smiles the big brother smile that knows about treasuring little brother sweetness. As elusive as dandelion fluff, I get to see it every now and then. Enough to know it exists. They explore the banks going so far I no longer see them. They come back with treasures of spines, big leaves and dry reeds. Can I eat this? Sasha holds a green button of a salmonberry. If you’re ready to say that our lives seem to be eternally intertwined with the very berries you’d be right. Some unions we don’t choose but accept as such. Might as well. So he eats the berry.
I have to be near a river, I know that much now. Seeing to the other side is essential. The sounds and smell of the river make the world dissolve. It’s us in a cocoon and everything stands still. Planes land far away on the other side, a sign that there are other forms of life on this planet. The boys return from another expedition. Mom, I painted my hands yellow. Give me your hand. But of course. If it gets yellow it means you like butter. Random? No, he explains, because that’s a buttercup. Yeah, you do, mom. And look at my hands, I really like butter too. Can never fight kids’ logic. He drops the buttercup on the sand laughing and runs to catch up with Tony. We make a quick decision to skip Tony’s evening class and stay at river until later. I read, the sun plays, the boys dig for clay and paint imaginary elves with it. We make our way back to the car sailing through tall branches of berries. This is the place of answers. Because here’s where I had the guts to ask the questions. I still am. Answers are still pouring in. Pun not intended.