There's a book and movie by the name of "Bridge to Terabithia." The is about two children who cross over to a place, Terabithia, where all their dreams come true. Well, as a child, I had a bridge that, sort of, did it for me. I lived in Arlington, Massachusetts, and every summer, once school was over, my mother and I would load up the car and drive off to Cape Cod. It was only a two-hour drive, but to a child of six or seven, two hours was an eternity! Especially back in... those days. This was before the era of PDAs, GameBoys, or even a Walkman. This was the time when you either listened to the radio, talked to the other person in the car, read a book or comic, or wrote or drew something. Well, my mother didn't care for the radio. I got carsick if I tried to read or write. Talking was about it. I never minded. It was then I learned so much about my mother and her life.
Yet, there was still that long, long drive!
Until the bridge, the Bourne Bridge, in Bourne, Massachusetts. It carried (well, carries - it's still standing!) Route 28 across the Cape Cod Canal, and thus connected the Cape with the rest of the state.
The sight of that bridge was enough to gladden my heart and put an ear-to-ear grin on my face - for several reasons. First off, seeing it meant that we were half an hour from Woods Hole, and the ferry to the island of Martha's Vineyard; my private childhood paradise. The Borne Bridge meant it was only half an hour before we arrive, at the ferry. Oh, so very close! It also meant stopping for lunch at a Howard Johnson Restaurant. Just over the bridge was a Howard Johnson's Restaurant, and we would always stop there for lunch. Once again, it was a chance to sit and be with my mother, to talk and have the server treat me as if I was such a big boy. Back then, as a six, seven, eight (etc) year old - it was a big deal. To get a glass of Coke and know that I could get more whenever I wanted - major cool!
The bridge became a symbol; each summer it let me know that all the joys of childhood were about to begin: going to the beach, jumping from Second Bridge, catching minnows at the pond, playing at the sand pit, Illumination Night, the Art Festival, riding the Flying Horses, and so on. Today, I look back and realize - wow, I had a major league great childhood; I just didn't know it at the time.
Isn't that always the case?
In the spring of 2008, my dear old mother was once more alone in this world, and she was a bit nervous about going to the island alone. Even with the Amtrak AutoTrain, there was a lot of driving, and she didn't relish going it alone. I said we, my wife and daughter, would go with her. We traveled on the train, the first time for the three of us, and quite fun actually, and then drove from the D.C. area. We had our iPods and DVD player, our CD's and laptops.
As we moved along Route 28, I felt the years melt away. I looked at my mother. The lines erased from her face, the gray evaporated from her hair, and the pure glee of youth entered my soul. Suddenly, all those electronic gadgets seemed unnecessary. I was with my beloved mother, and we were going to the island once more.
I saw the bridge, and I felt the time bridging back to those summers of long ago. We crossed over, and saw that the Howard Johnson (HJ) restaurant was now an IHOP - International House of Pancakes restaurant. IHOP isn't HJ, note quite the same, but still good, still a place for us to stop for lunch. This time though, I got coffee instead of Coke, but we could still sit and talk.
We spent a couple weeks on the island. Every breath I took, every sip of island water I drank, I felt the energy of life surging through me. There was a time when I said that if I didn't visit the island at least once a year, I'd die. That summer, I saw just how true that was. To not visit the Vineyard, chips away at my soul. Maybe, it's not something anyone who's not lived there could understand. For those of us who know and love, and cherish the place for all its simple joys, it is a truism.
This year, once again, we'll be going with her to the island; and once again, I'm looking forward to seeing that bridge - and all that it symbolizes. Yet, my mother is getting on in years, and isn't sure if she'll be able to make the trip after this year. My wife and daughter are going to go off on their own once we're off the train; our daughter wants to (Yipes!) stop and see some colleges. This final year, it'll just be my mom and me crossing that bridge and stopping for a bite to eat - just like those summers of yesterday.
I think our lunch and talk at the IHOP needs to be just a little extra special this time.
Click here for more by AJ Robinson.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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