Crossing The Hudson, From Then To Now

Dear Michael and Caroline,

For years all through my boyhood, my father drove our family over the George Washington Bridge. Almost always we were going from our house in Fair Lawn to visit my maternal grandparents, the Shefts, at 79th Street and Second Avenue, and always we took the George Washington Bridge.

It would be the four of us, my sister and I in the back seat, headed in for Passover or Thanksgiving or just a Sunday dinner. The bridge was tall and long and wide, all steel and cables suspended over the Hudson River. And as we crossed, I always looked to the right, toward the south, because there, spread out along the horizon, lay the towers of Manhattan.

We lived in a town of maybe 35,000 in Bergen County, where almost everyone had a house and was white and had some money, and on weekend mornings you heard all the lawnmowers going. So the George Washington Bridge came to mean something special. It connected us to a different universe, another dimension.

For here in Manhattan, as I learned as a young boy, was everything I saw in the movies and read about in books. Here, I knew, were the Wall Street tycoons and the ladies who lunch, the Broadway theaters and all those yellow cabs streaming through the night. That bridge, with its structure so muscular, those cables like tendons in the arms, linked my past and present to what would become my future.

I had no idea back then, at the age of 6 or 10 or 14, that Manhattan would remain my destination. Then again, maybe I suspected it. Certainly I always felt a gravitational pull toward that skyline. Certainly so much that I came to love was there.

Little did I realize, back then, that I would at the age of 23 move there and work there and meet Elvira there. And it was the George Washington Bridge that transported me to the rest of my life, that conveyed me all those years, in the 1950s and 1960s, from my old home to my new one.

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