Skipping Stones

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Another time, another place, another river

It was an unplanned walk down by the Cahaba River in Birmingham on Sunday afternoon the day before Labor Day. It was a gorgeous afternoon with cool breezes blowing. The walkway along the river was easy to stroll or, as in the case of the youth, great for making competitive dashes. The clouds drifted overhead like giant sail ships in the blue, blue sky belying the tormenting hurricane Dorian buzz sawing across the Bahamas.

We had watched our favorite teams on Saturday, yelled and groaned, bitten our nails, and, old to young, enjoyed wins for Alabama, Georgia and Auburn. It’s a wonder we didn’t tear up the television and wreck the couch in our enthusiasm. Then Sunday morning we worshipped the Lord together at Canterbury United Methodist Church and feasted on home grilled hamburger and hotdogs for lunch. Some of us even played a game of Scrabble. Now when Will mentioned a walk by the river, most of us piled in the car for the short drive to a riverside park.

It was a historic family moment in that William Jr. drove us, his first time to drive our car, our first time to be chauffeured by this grandson who has grown so tall and responsible. He’s tall and responsible but he was just as eager to get down to the rocky river as his two younger siblings. And that’s when the fun really began.

As we watched the three kids choosing their stones and then trying to make them skip across the water, I remembered the exhilaration I felt when, as a youngster, my stone skipped even once when I threw it. It takes a certain skill to skip a stone. A lot depends on the shape of the stone. But a flat stone by no means spells automatic success. There’s the twist of the wrist, there’s holding the tongue just right, and there’s that mysterious unexplainable adeptness for making stones skip in wonderful little hops over the water’s surface.

William repeatedly threw stones that skipped once, twice, even nine times across the water. They made beautiful little sprays as they shimmered down the river in magical leaps. Thomas mastered the art of skipping but not to the degree William did. Mattie’s throws were like mine. Her stones usually chunked into the water like a frog but she did make two or three stones skip more than once. She greatly dislikes being beaten by her brothers.

Other features of the river scene included children swimming in deep pools above the rocky shoals; ropes in trees for people who were brave enough to swing out over the water; a closed-in dog park where our canine friends could safely socialize and exercise. The engineers of this fairly new park utilized “wasted” space around an intersection, a bridge, and the back side of a grocery store. Instead of being a place to ignore, to rush past quickly, this park offers lots of healthy activity along with beautiful old trees, a gazebo for picnics, and the rocky river.

We woke on Labor Day to another bright day teased by cool breezes. Several of us sipped coffee as we sat on the patio. Christi and her dad entertained us with descriptions of the five deer who had ambled across the “back forty” before the rest of us came out. Before long it was time to lace Belgian waffles with maple syrup, thanks to Mattie the waffle baker.

Before we started our six hour trip home, we watched the children perform various calisthenics and took some videos to remind us of time with all of them. Will blessed us with a nice cooler of venison to take with us (not hunted in the “back forty”!)

What a wonderful end-of-the summer weekend, so much packed into it, all so good, but none better than seeing the children skip stones on the Cahaba River.

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