“Children are the bridge to heaven” (Proverb)
When I learned that my oldest sister Chris was coming to New York City for a month from her home in California, I decided to plan an adventure. I wanted to walk the Brooklyn Bridge together.
We are four girls, born in a five year span, who were raised in Ames, New York, once the smallest incorporated village in New York State. Our early entertainment revolved around each other and a large red barn that we turned into our playhouse. Outside distractions were few so we developed a unique closeness that is the underpinning of our adult relationships today. There were no malls, no cable reality shows, no cell phones or Internet. We simply had each other, confined to two bedrooms and one shared bathroom.
Since I am the country mouse coming from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, I carefully selected my outfit for the big city. It was a cool spring day and I knew that we were going to be outside so I wore a bright yellow sweater and everything else was urban black. Black pants, black leather jacket, black long scarf, shiny black walking shoes and a large purse with a black tassel rounded out my attire.
When we finally met up, I looked across Broadway and there were the three of them on the sidewalk bundled up in ski caps, mittens and assorted colored fleeces looking like they were going to hike the Appalachian Trail. We all laughed and hugged on the corner as they remarked how cold the morning air was. Alright, we were not exactly Carrie Bradshaw and the girls from Sex and the City, but we were ready to make the Big Apple our playground for the day.
Off we went into the subway like school girls on a field trip. We fell right back into “sister mode” leaving behind our assorted diverse lifestyles and giggled while trying to figure out what type of subway passes to buy. The city mouse, Vanessa, took over here and guided us to the ticket machine and told us what to do. Sisters know when to listen when given advice from another.
Once inside the crowded car we found something else to amuse ourselves and started laughing again. Pure nonsense easily motivated us. Here we were, four intelligent women, all AARP eligible, and you would have thought that it was our first time on mass transportation!
Brooklyn was starting to warm up with the sunshine and above a bright blue sky welcomed us. We had been advised to walk the bridge from the Brooklyn side into lower Manhattan for the best view so we took that advice along with our recommended first stop, an iconic pizza place. While standing in a lengthy line to get into our famous destination, the third eldest, Jill, quickly checked in with her local contact on her iPad to get us up to speed on the history of the place where we were going to have lunch. Calling us into a huddle in the middle of the line, she secretly pointed to another pizza establishment a few feet away and told us that in fact the original place had been sold to an outside party and this smaller place was run by the original owner’s wife and just opened up two months ago. That pizza was the real deal.
Out of line we popped, into the restaurant, and we were lucky to be seated right away next to the open kitchen where we could see the huge pizza oven in action. While we decided on what beer to drink, I noticed a picture on the wall with the name of the owner of the famous landmark. Then I observed an older woman next to the kitchen who was keeping a careful watch on all of the activity and I wondered if maybe she was related to the original proprietor. Sure enough, we called her over and she shared the history of the picture and identified herself as the founder’s wife. Score! We knew we had cleverly avoided the tourist trap next door and we were going to be enjoying the real intended pizza.
Jill excitedly exclaimed, “We’re sisters” and told her where we all hailed from. The elderly woman seemed impressed and obviously was proud of her family traditions too and kindly sent us some complimentary cannoli. The pizza was outstanding, the beer quenched our thirst and the free dessert made us feel special as we leaned over to share it from one plate in the center of the cozy table.
While on the Brooklyn Bridge we marveled at the architecture and read the plaques which gave us our history lesson for the day. Stopping frequently for photo opportunities, we kept laughing and lost ourselves in our simultaneous nostalgic journey down memory lane. Fearing that it might be cold while high up over the water, I packed some small bottles of Sambuca that we secretly sipped from as if we were underage drinking high school delinquents. Meanwhile bikers warned us to stay in the narrow walking lane and other pedestrians were weaving in and out as we were slowed down by our frequent silly moments and sips.
The day only got better as we traveled to Ground Zero to see the World Trade Center Memorial project. As we leaned over and peered into the Tower One waterfall and pool we found ourselves quietly reminiscing about that tragic day as our fingers traced the names of the victims. Now together in one place, on that sad day on 9/11 we were scattered around the country in our own homes, in our own worlds. We shared how we were all at different stages of our lives when our country came to its knees. Some were experiencing great professional success while one was coming out of a very dark time and another was on the threshold of a difficult challenge. But there we were on that beautiful spring day, together again in a quiet, reflective moment at a different time in our lives and in a less stressful time for our country.
That Saturday was so special to me. We not only walked the beautiful bridge between two boroughs of the great metropolis of New York, but we also bridged the distance that daily living can interrupt and tightened our sisterly bond through laughter and a simple day together like the old times. No one else was with us. It was just the sisters.
I couldn’t help but think that soon the four of us will be in the front row of the family lineup. Fortunately both of our parents are still alive and that security and buffer keeps us from having to focus on our own mortality. We still have some time to be the kids, “the Burgess Girls” before we have to step up and take charge completely for the generations behind us. But on that day we didn’t see ourselves as the other pedestrians did. We didn’t assign ourselves an age, we felt young and we were just having fun.
When my sisters put me back on the bus for my trip home, our stomachs were sore from laughing, our aging feet, ankles, and knees were suffering from our various ailments, but each of our hearts felt light and youthful as we vowed to quickly plan the next adventure.
Destination: Old Lyme Connecticut and Point O’ Woods Beach which was the summer cottage of our maternal grandmother. The web site says, “When you enter Point O’ Woods Beach under the railroad bridge, PAUSE…and leave the world behind…”
Ah!… another bridge, I am ready!
Do you have a “bridge” that you can walk? Is there an opportunity waiting for you to join the past with the present? Don’t put it off! You don’t want to miss it. I think maybe we can “go back”… just for a day. I did!