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  • Writer's pictureShana Ritter

The creek bed of my childhood…..

The creek bed of my childhood had gentle eddies and slow swirling currents, abundant stepping rocks and a small stone bridge to shelter me from the mid day summer sun.  The stream glinted with small minnows I’d catch in clear glass jars, string wrapped around the top and held at the other end around my palm. I’d fish them up and count, and let them go again.

We spent our summers in the small cottage, another world from the Bronx where we lived. Though less than a quarter of my time was there, the paths and woods fill most of my memories.

The summer I was seven Jackie lived just down the road. Their livelihood was as unlikely for rural New York as could be imagined, yet it foreshadowed my adult life. They were Spanish Flamenco dancers they would practice in their living room on a small wooden stage pounding rthythms I didn’t know existed, but the singing, the long low moans and the higher trills, reminded me of shul and the old men davening.

(15 some years later I would end up living in Spain and marrying a Spaniard, the language familiar well before I could speak it.)

But in 1960 the paths I knew were the ones behind my house that led to the hollow we called  fox hill, and the road that led to the creek and the path up to the orchards. Along the little banks watercress grew and we stuffed our pockets full. The trees only hinted at harvest, the field below almost high enough to be mown. At the place we turned to cut through the trees was the cave, a child’s hiding dark and cool and full of dreams. We’d stop there to eat the watercress and drink from the jar holding just water now, the minnows left to their ways in the stream.

Climbing up to the top we’d sit in the soft shade of the crooked trees and listen to the distant cars on the Palisades Parkway heading to the city. Climbing into the branches the Hudson gleamed a faraway silvery road.  A distance we were content just to gaze at all that summer.

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