An unassuming little bridge connects this contributor to her childhood and memories of her dad.
There is a bridge in nearby Niagarao n- t h e - L a k e, Ont., that’s really nothing special, I suppose. It’s the same as so many other bridges that appear over creeks and ponds and such. It has wooden planks, steel beams and is flanked by trees. It sits in a park surrounded by Niagara’s vineyards, and if you stand in the middle and peer over the side, you can see deer come by and drink from the creek.
My most-treasured memories of that bridge are from my childhood. I spent many summers on family picnics in that park, running over the bridge with my cousins just to hear the stomping sound our feet made on the old wood. We’d peer over the side and wonder how far the creek went and enjoy the shade from the trees.
My mom and dad would drive my older sister Lory and me to the park on Sunday afternoons for a stroll. Lory and I would run across the bridge, posing for countless pictures and enjoying the seasons changing around us, with the colourful autumn leaves falling from their branches and swirling around our feet or the snow piled so high we could barely make it to the centre of the bridge. It was our favourite destination and we felt at home there.
That park continues to be a Sunday- drive destination for me and has for years. The quiet of the vineyards across the way, squirrels stealing pears from the trees, the old wooden picnic tables... the place still touches me deeply. I have enjoyed watching my own children play on the bridge and have snapped many photos of them as the seasons change—they seem to grow so quickly.
The bridge, resting comfortably at the edge of the park, safely covering the long drop below and shielded lovingly by so many old trees, gives me a connection to my childhood. Especially to my father who never seemed to mind how many times we wanted to run across and peer over the side. He would always stand patiently, letting us play ourselves out. It was his way not to hurry, but to simply enjoy the moment, enjoy the surroundings. He had an easy way about him and I loved spending time in the park with him, even when the snow was halfway up our shins.
In 2013, I lost my father to a lung disease. It was, needless to say, a devastating loss for our family. I found myself standing on my favourite bridge quite often, arms resting on the steel beams, feet firmly planted on the wide, wooden planks, thinking about Dad, feeling his quietness beside me. I feel him in the gentle wind that sweeps across the old tree branches, I can see his lopsided smile, the kindness in his blue eyes, and I will always know he is a part of that bridge and my countless memories of being there with him.
After the winter is over, and I look over the side into the creek below and see the water moving, shedding its icy winter coat, I understand that life moves forward. My family will once again learn to speak of my dad with smiles and laughter, and the tears will stop flowing as freely. For now, however, this lovely bridge is my connection to my past—especially those carefree childhood days.