It’s the last quarter of the quarter and for some, panic has set in. The tourists are out in droves and menacing the roads in an effort to capture the remains of summer before Labor Day arrives. Labor Day is not the end of summer, but for many in the cooler climes, it’s back to school and work after that weekend. Lifeguards go back to school or winter jobs, sometimes headed to the warmer winter climes. Summer store and restaurant hours end on the coast Summer work schedules end. So there is a feeding frenzy of all things summer. Locals I haven’t seen all year are out walking, jogging, riding bikes, walking overweight dogs…
My dad always took vacation time in August. We didn’t have a summer home, or a usual getaway. It’s just the time of summer he preferred. There would be day trips, visits to friends, relatives, but not always a week or ever a two-week stay away from home. The summers when I was 4 and 5, we had an actual getaway — to the mountains.
We stayed in a cabin. My grandparents came with us the first year. This was in the time before the electronic age: no A/C, cell phones, computers, video games or seat belts in cars. There was a pool for swimming, board games, cards, country dances. We brought our own battery operated radio. I think we even brought pots and pans – at least a lasagna pan because we had to have pasta on Sundays. We even grilled lasagna on picnics. (It’s a cultural thing.)
I truly don’t remember each moment of each day we were there, or even the road trip there and back, but I remember being there – in sporadic moments. That’s the way memories are from age four or five. There’s no logical progression, only hops and jumps across time.
Somewhere on the property was a rope bridge. Whether it spanned water or just a gap in the mountains, I don’t remember. It was very Indiana Jones, years before the first movie and developing my adventurous self. Wood planks and rope. I lived in a city. I knew concrete and bricks. And while I had visited the ‘burbs, this scene was far more wilderness than I had ever encountered.
Besides, I didn’t have the proper shoes.
However, it was decided that the bridge made for a perfect group Kodak moment. About 8-12 people gathered together partway across the span. And they were all bigger than me, weighing down the bridge, calling me to join them.
Were they nuts?
I questioned the structural integrity of the bridge. No steel.
And hadn’t they ever heard of the-straw-that-broke-the-camel’s-back? I was the straw. I was sure my added weight would cause the ropes to fray and break.
I suspect I had to be bodily carried onto the bridge.
There is a photo. I don’t have it, but one exists. In it, everyone but me is smiling happily into the camera. I however, am peering over the side of the bridge looking for a soft spot to land when the bridge broke, while being bodily held in place, lest I try to make a run back to firm ground and leave them to fall without me.
Years later, maybe junior high or high school. Another August. My dad suggested a road trip to visit that place again in the mountains. I wanted to see if the bridge still existed. If it did, I planned to cross it and back – by myself. We lived in the ’burbs by then and I had learned to ride a bike (that skipped and had no brakes), ice skate (outdoors of course), had a scar on my ankle from yanking my foot out of ’sticker bushes’ while walking in the woods, climbed into treehouses that had thin planks nailed to the tree for a ladder and survived a bout of frostbite from a time spent sledding. I could conquer that bridge.
We never found it. Maybe we missed a turn. It was remotely located. Maybe the old signs no longer existed. Maybe the dirt road had been paved. Maybe the ‘resort’ (or whatever it was) had been closed, razed, redeveloped…I was bummed. I really needed a summer adventure and that bridge was just the ticket.