I say I'm an island lady, because it's in my blood. But really, my mama is the one. She was born and raised on the islands of Fiji, the Pacific ocean molded her. I grew up in a tiny rural town called Salem, NY, and the river molded me.
The Battenkill River. I had always thought it was an ominous name, however the Battenkill was more of a teacher to me than anything else. When I was young, on hot summer days, my parents would take me out on the canoe. For long trips we'd begin at the Vermont boarder and end at the Georgi; a beautiful property running alongside the Battenkill which was donated to the public after Mrs. Georgi passed. The house was transformed into a museum and as a child, I remember walking through and hearing the story of Mr. and Mrs. Georgi. How Mr. Georgi traveled all over the world. Every time he returned home to Mrs. Georgi, he presented her with a crystal or rock from his travels. Along with numerous paintings, their mineral and gem collection is on display, which I remember most.
In June, when everything is as green as can be, there's a long row of white blossoming trees. I used to daydream that I'd get married there one day. But still, the islands are in my blood, it's a fare toss up. I spent so many summer days in the green grasses and little sandy nooks of the Georgi.
I learned the meaning of my name on the Battenkill. Quietly, contemplating down the river with my parents.
"How did you find my name?"
"Your Dad found it in a fairy book. Fay, Fairy, it's what your name means."
I learned my Dad named me.
I learned some currents aren't to be tested, but if you're caught in a rough one, ride the current. I learned to be calculated in my risk taking. And of course, I learned leeches suck…literally.
Swimming in the Battenkill was ritual. Wherever there was a bridge, there were people. Parents and children finding their sandy spots, and teenagers, the brave and reckless, jumping off their bridge into the flowing, frigged depths. Of course, a hap-hazardous spray painting proclaiming 'I love So-and-So,' was a quintessential part of the scenic river experience.
One summer swimming day stands out. I may have been 5 or 6. My first best Friend, Rachael and her Dad took us swimming. It was only the 3 of us for a while. Hot sun, cold water. Simplicity. Always. A girl emerged onto the rocks at the edge of the river, hair blonde with blue and green colors in it. She wore a long flowing skirt. Everything about her was colorful. She sat down on the rock with a book. I had never seen her before.
"A gypsy." My friend's dad (Of course I can't remember his name) replied matter-of-factually
"What's a gypsy?"
"Someone who doesn't have a home and travels from place to place."
For a long time I wondered about her.
During my childhood years, I was a water worshiper, never getting out if I didn't have to. Only now do I realize how much that river shaped me. My affinity for rocks, my nature to ride the tough currents, because somehow, I believe I'm protected. And now, it seems I am that gypsy with colors in her hair, sitting on my rock. Hot sun, cold water. Simplicity. Always.