Tuesday, October 28, 2008

My Suspension

I raised an only child . My only child was a boy so my life was always cluttered and swirling with young boys. I had so much fun with the boys that hung in my living room, ate at my dinning room table and traveled the city in my car. We all kind of grew up together. I watched as they struggled with the transition from young boyhood to young manhood and they watched as I struggled to find my footing as the breadwinner and resident adult. They called me the ‘gimp mom’ and my car the ‘gimp mobile’ (see my entry ' A Beautiful White Used Chevolet ' for a full explanation). I called some of them my best friends.

When my son graduated from Junior High School I took him and his best friend on a motor trip to Canada. That trip glows in my memory as one of the most unique excursions of my life. We ate too many fresh cherries when going through the farm towns of Northern California and got car sick. We ran out of gas on a mountain top in Oregon. A man that owned a mountain top resort stopped and rescued us. When he asked me if I would have dinner with him that night my son’s best friend went ballistic. “You don‘t ask mothers for a date!”. The words that I heard my son use to explain living with a single, dating mother and the men that appeared to disturb ‘his’ peace makes me laugh to this day. We did everything touristy that we could find. We stopped at every skateboard park in every city. We ate everything our hearts desired. We had so much fun that none of us wanted to come home. But there is one memory that stands out from the rest. It is the memory of the ‘Suspension Bridge’.

We stopped at a tourist attraction on the Washington-Canadian border; a lovely suspension bridge with a full raging river flowing beneath. I don’t remember the exact distance, but it seemed as if there were miles and miles of open space between the river and the bridge. The bridge was made of slats that were tied together and you could look down and see the river running its course where the slats didn‘t quite meet. It had braided rope on the sides for people to hold as they stepped from one slat to the next. As people walked across the bridge it swayed from one side to the other, and if there was a breeze it would follow the air flow way up into the sky, or so it seemed. It was surrounded by immense beauty; green trees, blue skies, the frothing river beneath and an island on the other side that had picnic tables for those that were courageous enough to chance the walk across. The breath taking tranquility of the spot took hold of my heart. I wanted to have my lunch on the island on the other side. I wanted to sit under the trees, smell the flowers, and enjoy the abundant fauna. The two boys had run ahead of me. They were already inspecting the other side.

I felt left out and alone. My fear of heights was keeping me from experiencing something unique and lovely. So, I decided that I would take a deep breath, gather my courage, and give a stab at conquering my fear. My heart was in my throat, but I was determined. The bridge swayed a bit more with me walking on it because ‘I’ swayed a bit myself. I got half way across and decided to stop, for just a minute, so I could enjoy the sight of the water tumbling over the rocks beneath me. All of a sudden I heard a screeching yell. “Oh my God, look at my mother. We have to go rescue her.”

I looked up so I could catch a glimpse of the poor mother that needed to be rescued. What I saw was my son and his friend running toward the bridge. I started yelling, “No, don’t. Please, don’t.” But it was too late. They hit the bridge running.

Do you have any idea what a suspension bridge does when someone runs on it? That fragile bridge swayed back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. I grabbed both sides and held on. It swayed as if the earth was moving and it had to adjust itself. As they got closer to me I begged them to stop. Then I begged them to continue running to the other side and get off the bridge. “Do something to get off the bridge so it will stop swaying and I can open my eyes again, I pleaded!”

They didn’t do either. There was genuine fear for me in their faces and they both grabbed an arm and pulled at me in an attempt to rescue their mother in distress. They pulled so hard that my hands slipped off of the rope on the sides. One of them started to pull me to the left and the other pulled me to the right. I was in the middle of a swaying bridge, being pulled in opposite directions. The bridge kept swaying as if there was a great Wind God that was calling it home. I was a million miles up in the air with nothing but empty space between me and that river below.

I finally got them to understand that I hadn’t needed rescuing until they decided to rescue me; that they were scaring the living day lights out of me. They slowly walked backward to the other side, keeping their eyes on me the whole time. I stood on that bridge holding so tightly that my hands ached while the swaying slowly stopped. It felt like it took forever, and I swear my life flashed before my eyes several times. I slowly recaptured my equilibrium and tentively started to move a bit. By the time that I got the courage to turn around and walk back to where I had started I was only interested in getting to solid ground alive, and without throwing up. All I wanted to do was sit down and breath normally again. But because young boys are loud and enthusiastic they had gathered a crowd of intrigued tourists. The tourists had decided that I was as interesting as anything that they would see that day and they all stood and watched as I gingerly inched my way back. They encouraged me with words and several men volunteered to come and give me assistance, but mostly they enjoyed the show. They applauded as I took the last step off of the bridge and one of them even took a picture for me. I was so embarrassed I wanted to hide, but everyone else thought I had done a superb job of entertaining them. I still have that picture in my album.

For the rest of the trip those two boys talked about my courageous adventure. They told anyone that would stop long enough to listen. I used to play it like they had really made me angry, which naturally made the story all the more fun to tell, but you know what? That overwhelming fear of heights had suddenly disappeared. For the rest of the trip I was free to go to any heights I longed for.

Well almost!

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