“Mom, why is there a hole in the old bridge?” my brother and I would ask from the backseat while driving south, probably every time we would see it, just to hear my mom tell the story of the explosion, and then tell us of her riding the school bus across, or being so close to other cars the side view mirrors would touch – they were knocked off several times. Flat tires were pretty scary, too.
Growing up, our field trips to Pigeon Key consisted of long, hot walks across the bridge spotting sharks, stingrays, turtles, and more. At one point, my brother and I even raced an Old Seven Mile Bridge Race. I’m not one hundred percent sure, but I think it was only done one year. My dad surveyed the old bridge and Pigeon Key for when “True Lies” was filmed – and we got to spend an entire summer swinging from rope swings tied under the trestles of the bridge.
When I turned 16, my favorite place to take my new found freedom was for a spin across the old bridge to Pigeon Key, not long before it was pedestrian only. I’ve had first kisses there and last goodbyes there. My family throws flowers from Old Seven on days it is too rough to make it out to Sombrero Light, where my grandparent’s ashes are scattered.
Eight months pregnant with my second daughter, I had to make a detour on Old Seven to decompress while I was having a nervous breakdown after getting a speeding ticket in front of Veteran’s park. A walk across Old Seven could fix just about anything.
My palms are still scarred from the time I tripped on Old Seven while running – the only time I’ve ever been mad at the bridge. But being mad didn’t last long, and Old Seven has been a beautiful running friend for years.
So last week when a friend posted a farewell party to the bridge, on the bridge, there was no way I was going to miss it. More than 60 people came out for the barbecue and the most perfect summer sendoff sunset.
But, like I learned this week, it’s not goodbye, it’s see you later. We are so lucky that our local commissioners and Friends of Old Seven fought so hard to keep Old Seven around for years to come. My kids will probably be 8 and 12 years old (or older) before they get to walk the bridge again, but how lucky we all are that we WILL get to walk the bridge again! And, so, my love affair with Old Seven will continue…