People & Heights & Water (#557)

Those are three of Charlie’s favorite things, all provided courtesy of the Golden Gate Bridge.
People: On a day of upper 50s temperatures, two days before the end of the year, the small, angular-shaped parking lot beside the bridge was packed. A tour guide read aloud an explanatory plaque in Mandarin as 15 tourists took photos of it. Asian women with their hair color ranging from golden orange to black strolled up the path to the bridge in suede boots with handbags under arms, or gripping small children’s hands. Three cyclists, the oldest women speaking a Scandinavian language, carefully passed us. Several generations of a Latino family walked by, the youngest girl wearing a fleece hat, a fleece hood, and a pink scarf in the shape of a rabbit.
Charlie (once he had shaken off the last bit of sleep from a car nap) kept stopping, arms stiff in front of his body and his sleeves pulled over his hands. He was looking in the distance, at all those someones moving beneath the rust-red beams of the bridge.

Heights. Ever since he was a toddler and Jim took Charlie for regular walks across the Selby Avenue bridge in St. Paul, Minnesota, we have noted that there is something about being on a bridge that appeals to Charlie.

Charlie has bridges in the blood: My mother’s father was a bridge inspector, a job requiring him to walk atop the Golden Gate and bridges up and down the state of California. This afternoon we all got a good look from the bottom up at those mighty girders, seemingly so stable and yet swaying in the wind coming off the Pacific.

Again and again, Charlie ran to look down towards the water, and I think the view from the bridge’s top would intrigue him no less.
(It is also the case that trapeze artists and tightrope walkers were Charlie’s favorite to watch when he went to the circus.)

It took about forty minutes to walk across and then back over the bridge. Noise was constant from a couple of lanes of traffic; to our right and then our left was the kind of vista postcards are made of: a lean triangle with San Francisco’s skyscrapers and Victorian houses planted on it; a far longer, bigger wedge, with the East Bay where my parents lives; and in the middle Alcatraz and also Angel Island, where my grandmother Ngin-Ngin was interned for some months before setting food in America back in the 1920s.
“Go-denn gayt….brijjjj!”

Water. It was splashing a long drop below, and it was pale jade green.

Charlie, as has been regularly noted on this blog, is a boy who loves the water. Swimming in ocean waves is his preferred way of interacting with the water, but swimming pools can alike be places of liquid delight and visiting an aquarium is pretty good, too. And being over the water while on a bridge.
Charlie has his share of trouble with transitions and I find it somewhat counterintuitive that he should seem so home upon a bridge, which is a sort of transitional structure, a way to go from one place to the next (metaphorically as well as actually). And yet his face and the skip in his step said that Charlie was peaceful easy-feeling and downright perky, too.

Perhaps being on a bridge—-in wind and water and dry land and air all simultaneously—is not a transitional spot for Charlie. Perhaps the symbolic, cliché meaning of bridges is nothing to Charlie.
Perhaps a bridge is just home and where he needs to be.

3 Responses to “People & Heights & Water (#557)”
  1. Rose says:

    I love going with you on vacation, you are so descriptive, and it is good to know about your people! And that “in the blood” thing and bridges…I find that interesting. How much of what we are comes from our genes?

    This is a very good thread.

    It seems Charlie’s language is really picking up, or am I just imagining?

  2. Julia says:

    Good bridges are those things that let you stand and look right down at water, without all that pesky bank stuff. 🙂

    I never thought of bridges as “transition” structures as a child, I thought of them as these neat things right over the water. (And the footbridges over streams were the best — drop a stick on one side, watch it come out the other!)

  3. It’s been great to share our west coast adventures—-especially as we were not able to visit last year.

    Charlie’s shown me why bridges are places not just to pass through…….when I’m one in the car with Jim and Charlie, I wish it would never end.

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