The Bridge

This story is based closely on a true story my mother told me about my own arrival into this world. But I did have to surmise some of the finer details so I changed the names rather than claim I knew precisely what those concerned were thinking.

You can’t always plan these things, Mary told herself. It wasn’t exactly planned, but another baby would be nice now that the other two were both at school. And it seemed all the other women in the valley had babies last year and she had pitched in with looking after them. That had got her half thinking about another baby and, well, babies have a way of turning up.

But she wasn’t going to have it in the back of a car like poor Anne had last year. It was a long way from the hospital and Frank had taken his time checking the sheep, so it was a real panic by the time they got going. Mary had been in the back with Anne and had caught little Kate as she came out. She had told Frank to just keep driving and he had set a record for the trip.

And now the men were talking of rebuilding the farm bridge.

Mary couldn’t see what was wrong with the bridge. But Jack and Frank insisted that unless they rebuilt it the bridge would soon collapse under the weight of the milk tanker that crossed it twice each day. They wanted to tear it down and build a complete new one. And it had to be in the winter when the milk tanker didn’t come.

The trouble was this baby was going to be born in the winter and the bridge was the only way to the main road.

So if the bridge was not there when the baby came Mary would be in a worse fix than Anne had been.

Well there was a lot of discussion, and she thought Frank was going to comment on Jack’s timing, but he didn’t, not while she was there anyway. He might have said more when the two brothers were alone. But what it came down to was they could not start work on the bridge until Mary was safely in hospital. Babies being babies, no one knew precisely when that would be, so they just had to wait.

Jack assured her that the bridge wouldn’t take long to do. Just a few days. It would be ready when she returned with the baby from hospital. In those days you got a good two weeks in hospital after a baby.

Everything went according to plan, more or less. She made it to hospital in plenty of time, there were no speed records broken. The baby was a whopper, a boy. She was sort of hoping for a girl, but she didn’t mind. He was healthy, that was the main thing. Well he was healthy until they both caught the H bug, which meant they had a longer stay in hospital.

Jack came to visit when he could but, of course, they were flat out working on the bridge and he had the older two to look after as well. She asked him how it was going and he didn’t say much. Just an ‘all right’ and patted her hand reassuringly. He seemed pleased about the baby and worried about the H bug, and that was all she really wanted from him just now.

Then it was time to go home. She was, even now, a little groggy from the H bug, or possibly from sitting in bed so long, but she was much better.

He explained in the car that the bridge wasn’t quite finished yet. There had been some problems. One end of it had collapsed and they had had to rebuild the concrete buttress on that side. But they had finished that now.

When they reached the bridge Mary was horrified to see there was nothing there at all. Well, there were wheelbarrows and a concrete mixer and there seemed to be a lot of concrete. But there was nothing actually crossing the gap except a temporary plank barely wide enough to walk on. The creek wound through the bottom of the gap some dozen feet below.

Jack explained that they would walk across that plank to the other car on the far side. He reached for the baby.

Oh, no! Here was a man who had failed to deliver a simple bridge. Groggy or not she wasn’t going to hand over her precious baby to him. She clutched the baby to her and stepped onto the plank. It wobbled and bounced and she looked at the stream below with horror, but she got to the other side somehow. But it was another week before she could leave the farm again over the completed bridge.