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Sunday, June 26, 2022

The Belgrade Bridge

My childhood was a damaging mix of violence, upheaval, uncertainty and confusion. The confusion has stayed with me for decades on end thanks in part to the passing of all of what some would call elders. The questions remained, but the answers were no longer available. When the kidnapping imbroglio was settled and my Irish-Catholic mom with a bastard in tow was pressured to 'find that boy a father', she remarried rather quickly.

So after being spirited away, after being returned to Wilkes-Barre, and after being whisked away to Bridgeport, Connecticut for my third birthday, there was still more geographical tumult to follow.

It didn't take too, too long to learn my stepdad yearned to return to his family farm in Maine. During the 1960s we had visited the rural homestead a few times whereby I was reminded that I might be remaining there in perpetuity if and when he found suitable employment. He never did find anything even close to his lucrative job back in CT. So here I sit in Culm County, PA.

When his father passed away in 1967, it seemed as if the big move was finally afoot. Or something. I dunno, I was a kid. I will confess to loving the setting. Never forgot it. The virgin forest, the unpaved roads, the WWI cemetery, the spring water, the hand pump in the kitchen sink, the outhouse and most especially the collapsed bridge.

Thing is, while I knew we were in Maine, I never actually knew where. And after my mom was gone, I would never know. Seemed like it. And that always gnawed at me...where did I almost grow up at?

When I snuck onto the internet in 1996, I figured I could go all Detective Google and find that bridge. How hard could it be to find a collapsed bridge in Maine anyway? Trust me, it was hard. Harder than I would have believed going in.

Still unpacking after the big move out of Wilkes-Barre, I came across a cardboard box filled with mostly ancient letters that my mom had saved. Lo and behold, there sat this letter from Readfield, Maine, from people who's names I did not recognize. Car 4! Detective Google! The cold case again!

After much Googling, I had a eureka moment. Finally! After all these years. Google maps provided me with this.

The old bridge is submerged. What we see is a newer expanse.

So I went and got me a phone number and spent an hour talking to the lady that bought that farmhouse and raised her kids there. We are now Facebook friends sharing photos and such. Spring Hill Road, Readfield, Maine. I did it. The cloak is no more.

Thanks again, Mom and Dad and Dad and Dad. Thanks for the oft-confusing journey.

One of my most enduring memories as a youth is wandering down to the bridge with a .22 long-rifle in hand. Oh, and the maple-flavored chewing gum.

Sorry about all of that.


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