The Symbol of a Childhood

March 28, 2011
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The one arching cable, like an upside down rainbow, was always present during the majority of my youngest years. The cable was – and is – suspended between two grey slabs of metal with carved-out archways. And below this majestic vision, an army of cars used to race across the bottom in an eternal parade of blurred metal. They still do.

The crystalline waters beneath shimmered with the brilliance of a thousand mirrors, blinding my eyes whenever the sun shone. The ducks that mastered the waves fascinated me, as they bobbed their heads down in search of fish, until their little webbed feet kicked from side-to-side above the water. In the distance, the mysterious island with the small houses built on the edges, and the tall apartment buildings toward the center, was a far-off glass-and-brick mountain. This was the scene that met my eyes almost every day when I was 2-9 years old. The majesty of the Verrazano Bridge and the waters of Caesar’s Bay around it are burned into my mind almost as intensely as the feeling of the cold metal railing that I used to lean forward against in order to see the rocks at the foot of the short precipice of the bay.

But the awe did not last. The magic of the bridge faded as I traveled across it multiple times from New Jersey to Brooklyn, New York, and back again. When I drive over it, it is a bridge, just like any other, and the metallic grayness of it is overwhelmingly apparent. The tolls, the monotony of the traffic, and the familiarity of the bumps and turns of the trip seemed to have eaten away at the reverence that I held for the bridge. And I rarely went back to Caesar’s Bay. I did not want to face the inevitable disappointment and nostalgia that I knew would wash over me as I gazed upon the common scene of an old bridge and an even older ocean.

During a trip into Brooklyn, my father suggested going for a walk along the bay, and indifferently, I agreed. As we approached the spot, I saw the familiar metal railing stretching all the way along the bay. As I strolled up to it, it seemed shorter than I remembered, and the rocks beneath were not nearly as colossal and menacing as they used to be. I dragged my eyes from the railing to the water beyond, and noticed the ducks, still nodding their heads into the water and waving at me with slippery webbed feet. And as I lifted my eyes to the bridge, my breath caught just as it did when I was seven years old. The splendor of the bridge radiated in the brilliant glow of the sun, reflected in the innumerable waves of the ocean, each wave running and rolling under it like crazed, devoted fans at a rock concert. The magnificence of the scene was as it always had been, and I felt the exuberance and admiration for this symbol of my childhood rise within my chest like lava. My eyes watered – I promised to never forget the exhilaration of this scene, old and familiar, yet exotic.

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