“Bridge Over Troubled Waters”
Many years ago,
when I was fresh and ready to ascend.
I often went with my Mother into the city when she had business to tend to.
We could achieve this via bus, train, taxi cab, or just simply walking.
The town I grew up in was a stone’s throw from Downtown Boston.
If the weather was right, and all things were equal,
Ma would grab the carriage-tank, and we would “hoof it” from Charlestown to Boston.
Crossing the North Washington Street Bridge was the primary path to get us to where we needed to go.
The bridge seemed huge to a small sensibility,
especially, one not familiar with such architecture.
Welded steel, and rusted girders rose up like Erector Sets.
Which in the days of industry and Navy business,
were placed in the hands of the gods so they could connect Boston to its Northeasterly neighbor.
A metallic menace of purpose and acceptance,
one would note that when you arrived to a certain point of the bridge,
the path was beset on all walking surfaces by see-through grate panels.
You could see the water below, and a sense of dread would fill you as you approached this part of the walk.
A feeling of gravity seemed to reach up and solder our legs to the steel floor.
The crossing of the bridge, what some might term as a brave gesture, inspired momentary but passing paralysis.
More often than not, I requested a lift into the carriage-tank, or I pushed my face into the folds of my Mother’s clothing.
Hoping, that if I didn’t look, no harm would come to me.
My Mother took a more proactive and pragmatic approach.
She issued the challenge of walking over the panels,
by staying steadfast to the steel beams below that gave support to the panels.
If the panels failed, then at least you would be grounded on the steel beam girders.
There was a finite amount of tract that needed to be negotiated before you got to the safety of solid ground again.
I recall walking gingerly on the beamed portion of the grates,
concentrating on the water of Boston’s Harbor below.
Upon growing bolder on subsequent trips, I started to spit loogies through the gaps of the panels in hopes that they would hit the water below and float. Until, fish would come to the surface to consume.
Then, one day, the grates didn’t faze me at all, and the walk became moored in muscle memory.
At times, the old Stop & Shop bakery if operational, would send baked bread plumes over the water to lead Townies over the bridge to Causeway Street.
Bruins games, and Celtics games always seemed to be releasing the faithful crowds out onto the street and down the way.
Trips to Downtown Boston, when a walking occasion, were special, and eventually looked forward to when all fears of slaying the steel structure were gone.
Since that time, many bridges have been crossed, some see through, others harboring trolls unseen, but if we simply remembered to find the trick of making an unpleasant thing seem more pleasant, then we always came out on the other side.
Ma was good at finding those tricks and getting us to buy into them.