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Bridge 9340 Is Falling Down

July 11, 2010
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Fourth of July is my favorite of all our various holidays. Every year, I long to see those colors rip through the blue-black skies at musically timed intervals as I sit by the water with beer, friends and massive amounts of roman candles and screaming bottle rockets. Unfortunately, San Francisco just doesn’t know how to do it correctly. It’s not their fault though. It is really too cold to want to be patriotic after sundown. Furthermore, San Franciscans don’t grow up with the magic of fireflies flitting around them as they feel the barrage of glittering explosions deep in their rib cages.

I remember running after the ephemeral bugs, crazed and giggling across our lush midwestern lawns. The true green of the fescue glinting under street lamps, only to be trampled by our callused feet. These calluses were earned. Much playtime went into the development of the armour that would allow me to run on hot pavement at the pool, grip stones set precariously into the school creek and pedal madly from my pink banana seat. I lived on a street where block parties existed, kick-the-can was played nightly and sugar was passed between neighbors with pleasure. When one is raised in this environment, how could it be possible to not love America and all it stands for?

Every year that I have been in CA for the 4th, I am left unfulfilled. The longing for the Independence Days of my childhood grows. This year it was so overwhelming that I had to leave the group I was with to reign in my melancholy in private. In those short moments of walking faster, I realized that I am so happy with my life, but I can’t get rid of the nagging nostalgia for things that once were.


The Independence Day that remains fondest in my mind wasn’t the most fun. It wasn’t filled by the best show of fireworks, or the most artistically designed choreography. It wasn’t the most delicious. It was spent standing on a bridge with a partially blocked view in Minneapolis. It was sticky and I had to walk for hours that day through crowds and birds. But, I was in the arms of someone I loved. We weren’t even posed in a sappy romantic comedy type fashion. I think after it got cold on the water, those arms wrapped around me to block the wind and boost me up for a better view. It was a very normal day in my memory.

That bridge has since collapsed.

When I catch myself wanting to go back to that time, I savour the memories and let them pass through my mind with a smile. You see, relationships are much like that bridge. The bridge wasn’t particularly old, but it needed to be fixed with more than patches, and the state was so broke it let the repairs idle in favor of funding other programs. Bridge 9430 sustained too much wear every day, and inevitably, it fell. To put it into Bay Area context, imagine what it was like when the Bay Bridge was under construction. They rebuilt the bridge because they needed it to lessen the burden of other routes/it was most direct. But in the time that it was down, people found other ways to get where they needed to go. After it was reopened, we all rejoiced, but the repairs left the bridge slightly unrecognizable in structure, and most importantly, we understood that if it happened again, it wouldn’t be the end of the world like we had maybe previously been thinking.

I can let these memories go because I know I can be happy taking a different route. It might not be a better route. It might not be a route that others can navigate. It might create its own detours. It is just a different route. I don’t love the memories any less, in fact I love them more, because with any twist of fate, I could have lived my entire life without them. And then I would understand the fireworks less. I would feel the beauty of those lightning bugs, the wonder of my name in sparks and the boom of pyrotechnic mortar at a surface level only, and would have to learn how those can be bottled and placed into my heart while on top of some other bridge. When you’re a child just a single spectacular crack of lightning or a falling firework can rattle your insides. Without that 4th of July, I have no idea when I’d have learned that as an adult, I can still be moved at the core. And if that bridge had never fallen, I wouldn’t know that I would have eventually learned some other way.


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