I started writing this in 2009 before our younger son’s freshman year in college. He is now a sophomore at UNT and I am more proud of him than ever.
Bridges, bridges, bridges. I lost count between Baytown and the Mitchell Campus of Texas A&M Galveston, on Pelican Island. The Highway 146 suspension bridge over the Houston Ship Channel is the coolest: the steep grade and lack of horizon make me feel as if I were leaving Earth behind and driving right into the sky. Even so, its massive pillars stretch some unfathomable distance higher, taming the bridge to a meek arc by comparison. Suspension cables, coated with some sunburst-yellow material, rise up to form dizzying crisscross patterns of lines before clustering at the top of each pillar.
Skirting farther south around the coast, we crossed more bridges: one across the mouth of Clear Lake at Kemah, one over Dickinson Bayou, and another over a little arm of Moses Lake heading into Texas City. Finally we merged onto Interstate 45, which this far south is called the Gulf Freeway. First thing we saw was the little town of Bayou Vista, consisting of tiny strips of land corn-rowed between dredged-out channels. A street running down the center of each finger of land had a row of small lots along either side, each just big enough for a house and the merest fringe of lawn. This presented an odd and rather claustrophobic sight to us sprawling-semi-rural-neighborhood types.
Before we knew it we found ourselves out on the longest bridge of all, the Galveston Causeway. More than a mile and a half of open water, then we gained land again. The Interstate petered out, becoming “Broadway” instead. Arriving at 51st Street, we turned left and soon found ourselves on one last bridge, the Pelican Island Causeway. Finally! Our younger son Greg and I got out of the car and went to register our attendance at his New Student Conference.I’m not real big on “apron strings,” but I couldn’t help feeling a bit nostalgic as Greg strode off to his student-only functions. I took myself out to dinner and enjoyed a quiet evening of reading and working on a non-fiction project at my hotel. I would miss the kid when he moved to his dorm, but with just his dad and myself at home, I would also enjoy more of this quiet and solitude for writing. Besides, Greg had grown up so much, outgrowing our little home town in many ways. He was done with high school, bored with being a kid and ready to launch into his next phase of life. It was just… time.
After we listened to all the lectures about how to succeed in college and where to find the library and post office, and got Greg registered for his first-semester courses, we started back home. On the return trip, the bridges did not seem quite so long. And I realized that we would not be sending Greg to the dark side of the moon or anything. After all, the bridges would still be there, every one of them designed for two-way traffic.
This was going to be a good year, for all of us.