My town is a river town. The murky Ohio River flows past my town, rushing toward the nearby Tennessee River and the mighty Mississippi. It powers the local economy with marine jobs and gives life to recreation in these parts. About 30,000 people live in this city. By most accounts that’s a small town. Not single zip code small, but small enough. My town is here because of the river and has a special spirit because of those brown waters. Because it seeps into our daily lives in so many ways it’s easy to forget how much it defines our community.
Early Saturday morning I had to take Teen Angel downtown near the river to work at the bakery. The twenty minute drive across the county was quiet as the sun climbed silently upward, tugging people out of bed and into the sticky heat. Taking a cue from my pastor’s most recent sermon, I made an effort to pay attention to the little things during the drive, taking in the accessories that dressed up the morning. As I pulled away from the bakery I turned the corner and drove past our riverfront for a look at the water as people often do, and I found more than I expected in my town on a sleepy Saturday morning.
Apparently, the river is an early riser, even on the weekend, pushing and slapping around with glittery energy. And moving the fisherman who had long been at work by the time I stepped on the shore.They buzzed and glided among the waves, wrapping up their business in the humid cloudy air, and I soaked up their sounds as I walked along the riverbank.
The humming of the motors. And the swearing that sometimes accompanies failed attempts to drive the boat back onto the trailer. The splashing dogs that retrieve a driftwood stick for as long as their master will throw it.The far away toots of tugs and barges moving farther up river where the barge companies dot the bank. And quiet to my left.Except for the small splashes of a child sticking her feet in the cold water. The floodwall that wraps around our riverfront partially hid the treasure of our performing arts center: which sits on the other side of the concrete and beckoned me to climb the hill to see what was on the other side.There the city trolley was already clanking around its downtown route.Past the colorful murals that cover the floodwall. And tell my town’s history.
And lo and behold, Teen Angel came puttering down the cobblestone street on her way to take bread and cookies to the farmer’s market.Cars were sliding into parking spots on the shady Market Square.Bringing groggy customers to the bakery and the coffee shop for frittatas and scones and lattes. And gossip.
I walked around the riverfront and downtown for about thirty minutes, taking a really good look at the little things. And I marveled at how often I forget that small doesn’t mean quiet. And that big is in the eye of the beholder because my town is big. Big in spirit and in character. I like it. I like it a lot. This is my town.
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