Inspired by the bridge prompt
By: Rebecca Taylor
I, Jenny Monroe have a story to tell and you dear reader is who I am going to tell it to. I grew up in a tiny town which wasn’t even visible on most maps. I knew everyone in my town because they either went to the same school as me, were my teachers, or the grocery checkout girl, or they had known my parents and grandparents. It’s funny because some people complain about how old fashioned and nosy their little towns are but I liked Elm Ridge. It was small; it was peaceful in its own way and most of all it was home. When I say peaceful in its own way, I mean that you could hear bingo being called on Friday nights from anywhere on Main Street and when it rained you could hear the train’s whistle in the next town fifteen miles away. Small towns have a way of teaching you things and for me most of my lessons were learned on the outskirts of town at the old train bridge. You see our town was too small to have regular deliveries or passenger cars going through. That stopped shortly after I was born thirty-five years ago.
The old train bridge overlooked a beautiful meadow. Everyone in town loved that spot and would often take their families on picnics there especially on Saturday afternoons. My teenage years weren’t easy ones. When I was fourteen I decided I wanted to be grown-up. In my family, I was the oldest child; I had two younger brothers, both just little kids at the time. They were twins, ten years younger than me from my father’s second marriage. Before he met my stepmom when I was nine, he was a widower and had been since I was six. He was lonely but I never understood that, at least not then, he had me, right, why would he be lonely? My grand-daddy said he was lonely for adult companionship, I didn’t know what that meant back then either. When my stepmom came along, it was okay in the beginning, she has always been nice to me but when I reached my teen years I felt like she was trying to replace me in my dad’s life. She was the one who made his coffee in the morning, the one he laughed with, the one he wanted to go for a walk with in the apple orchard at night while I stayed in the house and minded my brothers. My brothers were taking up a lot of time in my dad’s life, after all they were young and craved attention, and they were boys and cared more about playing sports than I ever had. Long story short, in order to get out of the family picnics, I got a job working at the grocery store as an errand girl on weekends. The pay was okay and I was gaining my independence because I was working and that was an adult thing to do.
On nights in the summertime, I would often stay at my friend Sarah’s and we would take a flashlight and walk down to the train bridge. It had a wood and metal structure that showed its age. It was solid but the paint was peeling and the rust showed. If you looked closely, you might even see initials carved into the wood, a symbol of some of Elm Ridge’s relationships. Some which still last today, some which have moved on with the times similar to the train’s traffic. It was here on the bridge that I talked about what I wanted to be when I grew up, where I flirted with boys and even fell in love. It was also here that the boy I loved and who I thought might even love me told me that he was leaving for a more exciting life in the city. He was going off to get a business degree. I still had a year left of high school and as much as I asked him to wait for me to come to him, he said he couldn’t. It was on that bridge that I realized how unfair life can be. I wondered there hadn’t I been through enough in my life losing my mother, battling for my father to notice me once he had other children and now losing a person who was so important to me to his dreams. I wondered what about my dreams? I felt stuck between the town where I had always lived and the outside world. At the time I felt left out, cast aside and forgotten, but I pulled up my boot straps and kept working. I studied hard and kept earning money at the grocery store. I even got a scholarship and wouldn’t you know that took me out of town. I studied to become a nurse and when my schooling was done I knew that I could work anywhere in the world and for a while I took a good job at a hospital in a city. It was busy and the city was noisy but I had to prove to myself that I could do it. Some days were a struggle but little by little I put one foot in front of the other and did my job.
After I had been at the hospital for a few years, I met a male nurse and we got married. He wanted somewhere peaceful to raise our future children and my town had managed to grow while I was gone. We both got jobs working at the clinic there and before I knew it I was taking Jim to the bridge that had been a metaphor for my life growing up –rough, sturdy but prevalent. Looking back now I realize how much my dad loved our family and I’m catching up on my time with him, if I can make it I don’t miss a picnic in the meadow near the bridge and neither do my husband and our beautiful daughters now four and six. Life really does come full circle, sometimes we just don’t know it when we’re fighting it.