October 10, 2009

Rocks, Bridges, and Memories - Oh my!

I conquered the swinging bridge today. I cried from one side to the other, held tight to the ropes with each hand, but I made it across the bridge and found a moment to look out and admire the beauty of the view while I was in the middle of my own personal crisis.

Thirty years ago, I walked across that same swinging bridge. I didn't want to make that walk. It was a very scary path for the 5 year old me. I cried and begged to go the other way. My stepfather would have none of it. He insisted that I walk across the bridge that hung suspended over the trees and shook with every step.

At the middle of the bridge, where it was the most shaky, he stood in front of me and jumped up and down on the bridge.

I screamed - terrified of the motion and the depths below.

I look back on that now and wonder what his motives were.

Was he trying to show me that the suspended bridge was completely safe and there was no need for my irrational, 5 year old self to be so afraid?

Did he take pleasure in causing me to scream in that manner?

Was it fun for him to stand there and jump so heavy to make the bridge bounce so hard?

Did he know just how hard it would be for me to forget that experience and how it would haunt me some thirty years later when I came back to that same spot and faced the crossing of the bridge again?

I have no way of knowing if he was, indeed, just trying to ease my mind about the safety of that bridge. It is completely possible that he took great pleasure from my pain and terror. It is also completely possible that he was trying to teach me that there was no reason to be afraid. Whatever his purpose, he instilled in me a memory that is filled with fear and tears and unhappiness.

Yet I faced the bridge today and I conquered.

My girls - not the least bit afraid - bounced across that same bridge and giggled the whole way. Kira, walking with her Daddy several feet ahead of me, made sure to step very heavily along the way so that she could cause the bridge to bounce just a little bit more. For her, the first trip across the swinging bridge at Rock City will be remembered as a fun and memorable moment. She stood on the other side waiting for Mommy to catch up, then bounded out at when I reached the halfway point to meet me. I stopped and took her by the hand to point across the vast expanse of Tennessee that could be seen from that midway point on the bridge.

Then I cried a little harder as she bounced back to the side of the bridge - making it swing just a little bit too much for my liking.

I conquered the bridge. I know I should have some feeling of elation and accomplishment for having made it across the bridge today. Instead I feel sadness and exhaustion. The emotional toll was heavy for me. Even my new memories - those I form by taking my children to see the adventurous places close to where we live - are tainted from old images and fears.


Anonymous said...

You are a truly amazing mommy. It has to be tough to take such a bad childhood memory and turn it into a good one for your own kids. Bravo to you.