So there’s this bridge, yeah? The Swinging Bridge [of death] strung like a tightrope over some pretty chill looking rapids and by chill I mean frigid not cool. My boyfriend’s running back and forth across it like a Circus Act and I’m just kind of lingering at one end, swiping the toe of my boot back and forth across the dirt. You look good out there, babe.
He’s telling me to join him and I’m just kind of like no it’s cool I’m fine over here you do you I’m just hanging out on real solid earthy ground and thinking about how much I love being alive.
Guys, I’m terrified of heights.
I mean, I’m game. I still jump on roller coasters and climb mountains and linger at the edge of waterfalls but it usually takes a solid few minutes for me to talk myself into it and that river rushing underneath the bridge looked hungry. Like it wanted to swallow up my little girl self in one big Jonah and the Whale gulp.
So here’s the deal. My Dad was a carpenter. When my brother and I were younger, we took some old pieces of battered plywood and a handful of rusty nails from his tool shop, and set to work building a tree house. Two tetanus shots, a few smashed finger nails, and a dozen splinters later, we had the most condemnable tree house you’ve ever seen.
That’s kind of what I’m thinking of as I edge my toes up onto the plywood floor of the Swinging Bridge, grabbing onto the rebar siding, gazing nervously down beneath me. I’m wondering how long I can hold my breath for, and the amount of time it would take for hypothermia to set in would I make it to the shore? The results of my mental calculations weren’t looking too promising.
So I’m standing there, thinking this through, gauging the solidity of the structure, when this group of three older women walk right up to the bridge and start to cross it, without hesitation. I’m talking older as in Keds, sun bonnets, and velour track suits. And the leader of the Golden Girls stops dead in the middle, giggles, and jumps up and down, sending the bridge into a frenzy. The women behind her were shrieking and grasping frantically for something to hold onto and I’m just looking on in horror. And then they laugh. They all start bursting out laughing and the laughter bubbles out and floats over to me on the wind and I breathe it in through my nose all the way into my belly where it catches and amasses into a hundred butterflies. I smile first, and then the laughter erupts.
And as I’m thinking on it, I can’t help but hope that I don’t lose my joy as I grow older. Sure, I’ll lose any sense of fashion I may possess, and I’ll lose just about everything else at some point, but I sure as hell hope that I still jump on swinging bridges.
That I never stop trying to hold my breath through the ridiculously long tunnel leading into the park. That I never stop running ahead down the hiking paths.
I always want to celebrate climbing mountains with a gallon of ice cream, my sore feet tucked up into his lap, the two of us complaining about how getting old is a total bitch. In front of a roaring fire that took half an hour and three-quarters of a gallon of lighter fluid to get going.
If getting old means I can’t stay up late to gaze at the stars, and get up early enough to have a steaming cup of coffee with the rising of the dawn, than I want no part of it.
Sometimes, I want to race to the top of a mountain. Sometimes, I want to lay out on the deck with a bottle of wine, tracing the spilling patterns of galaxies above my head, fingers interlaced, laughter ringing out into a midnight sky. Forget growing old. I have too many bridges to jump on, too many tunnels to wish on, and too many days left of loving on this earth.
Ain’t nobody got time for that.