Where There’s a Will, There’s a Weigh

by Stefani on 22-July-2008

Do you know what your car weighs?

Would something like this move you to find out?

Would You Cross?

You see a lot of these little bridges along the back roads of East Texas.

I find them lovely and quaint and also wholly terrifying because, well, I drive a big car. A BIG car. For all my deodorant and yogurt making, reusable grocery bag toting, local eating, nature loving tendencies, I also drive a big ol’ gas guzzling Suburban and I’m only ever sorry when it’s time to fill ‘er up.

There. I said it. It feels good to come clean.

I suppose it’s hypocrisy, but I have a kind of love affair going with my, “Black Jack,” and I don’t care who knows it.

I did wonder though, as I stared at this sign, if I was about to be dealt some kind of cosmic justice in the form of a rickety bridge o’ doom.

There we were, the Black Jack beast and I, my three precious sons in the backseats, and my sweet Granny at my side. I was looking down that little road and wondering why it never occurred to me to find out what my car weighs.

Is this something other people know? Phone number, social security number, each child’s height, weight and distinguishable markings, the square root of pi and the weight of one’s car? Are you supposed to know that?

I mean I don’t even have a frame of reference. 3 tons? 10 tons? 1.21 gigawatts? I don’t know.

So as I sat and (ahem) weighed my options, my Granny says, “Oh honey, I’m sure it’s fine. The school bus used to go over these bridges all the time, and you can’t weigh more than a school bus.”

Yes, but well, it has been, um, lets just say “a few moons” since my Granny rode a school bus. What’s the shelf life on a wooden bridge?

In the end, I decided to trust in the ingenuity of my kinsmen and just go for it. As I let off the brake though, Granny added, “of course, all us kids had to get off the bus and walk over first. Then the bus came behind us. We just got back on and went on to school.”

Wait what?

For real?

Can you imagine such a thing? Do you think that would fly for one single solitary minute in this day and age?

Lord have mercy, I can see the appalled faces of the TV news anchors now, the protest signs, the angry mobs – children! Forced to get off the bus and walk across! There would be petitions and fundraising and before you know it, spanning that creek, would be a solid titanium bridge dedicated by George Bush himself, while the band played, “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

After a little deliberation, many prayers, breath held and fingers firmly crossed, we passed over that bridge, and we were fine.

That little bridge has me wondering though.

There was a time when a little risk and a little hardship was a part of life, the price you paid for privileges like an education, or say, dinner. I’m not saying that we should all strive to imbue danger and peril into the lives of our kids, I’m just saying, well, I sometimes wonder what our kids miss out on, what WE miss out on, what sense of accomplishment, what strength of character, what inherent value is lost for all of us,  because we live in an affluent society where really we are called to risk our necks for very little.

A little hardship and peril will at some point likely find it’s way into all our lives though, so the question is, if we’ve not had to face those bridges before, will we know what to do when we reach them? Will we have the courage to do what needs to be done?

I hope when the time comes, that we cross our bridges with grace.

Rick July 22, 2008 at 6:10 am

Another chapter for your book!

Square root of pi? Relax, that’s one number you don’t need to know.

Mandy July 22, 2008 at 6:16 am

What a perfect analogy. I once broke down going across train tracks with my granny and my great aunt in the car. While I thought my grandma was gonna have a heartattack right on the spot, my aunt just breathed deep and said “Oh jesus ain’t gonna let us old hags die right here on these tracks. take a deep breath and try again and if that dont work we will get our old butts from this car and walk the rest of the way home.” I tried again and it started right up. I will never ever forget that experience. Thanks for reminding me!

michele, FL July 22, 2008 at 6:21 am

AMEN, sista!

Jade July 22, 2008 at 6:45 am

What a wonderful story and great lesson in life. Thanks Stef!

Cassandra July 22, 2008 at 7:03 am

I am so often in a panic about my girls facing trials, but you are so right. What would we be without those? And the trials now are so different compared to what our parents/grandparents/great grandparents faced. I’d like to cross my bridge with some grace when it comes.

Sarah July 22, 2008 at 7:10 am

I completely agree. It seems people don’t have the opportunities to challenge themselves anymore and see what they are made of. It is good to be able to test one’s self once in a while!

I’m imagining the Suburban driving really fast over the bridge as it crumbles behind you and you make it to the other side…like in Super Mario Brothers.

jackie July 22, 2008 at 7:14 am

How do you do that? Turn a trip over an old bridge into a life lesson? How? It is an awesome gift you have, and I have pondered many a time what our children are missing out on with our hovering and over protecting and sparing them from hardship. I’ve been spouting threats at my three that I’m going to find a farmer and hire them out to him for the summer so they can understand a good day’s pay for a good day’s work. HA that’ll show em.

Regina July 22, 2008 at 7:14 am

LOL! I agree – when does the book come out???

I remember the neighborhood bus stop -and jockeying for position in line to see who would get on the bus first. Great times were had at that stop – and great games conceived to pass the time.

Rickety bridges in life are good – it helps us keep our focus and our balance – and to slow down enough to see the beauty of the creeks underneath.

Karen July 22, 2008 at 7:20 am

A Suburban weighs about 7,000 pounds.

elissa July 22, 2008 at 7:42 am

girl, you are in a GROOVE… this ought to be published! and, just want to add that i WHOLEHEARTEDLY agree with your musings. wish someone would tell my mother-in-law!!! 😉

Lynn July 22, 2008 at 7:50 am

Oh, man — I’ve enjoyed the comments as much as the post! Nothing profound to add, except that (a) on a field trip in the 1970s, all of us had to do that very get-off-the-bus-at-the-bridge thing (freaked me out a bit), and (b) a friend once remarked that if the Leaning Tower of Pisa were in the U.S., it would have been made off limits to visitors from the git-go. The European folk, on the other hand, were a bit more comfy with the risk. (this comment written during a doozy of an electrical storm…bold risk-taking, or just idiocy??)

Lisa Kirker July 22, 2008 at 7:52 am

Oh, that was great. It’s the truth isn’t it! And by the way, you are not the only one. I too try to keep our lives as “green” as possible, yet drive a big black Suburban. Seriously. Maybe I’m trying to make up for it with all of my earth-friendly actions. Thanks for the blog. I enjoy it daily!


melissa s. July 22, 2008 at 8:02 am

so, so true and well said. especially the ‘solid titanium bridge dedicated by gw himself’ part. that cracked me up.

Janeen July 22, 2008 at 8:32 am

That post was beautiful. Thank you.

Maria July 22, 2008 at 8:36 am

I’ve never been one of those “How is your daughter gonna deal with hardship unless she goes thru it!?” I’ve always replied “Um, ya, well, should I deliberately burn her hand so she knows not to touch the stove?” Common sense and good grace should prevail in times of bad weather, right? Your post is thought provoking however. Could I be wrong? Maybe some hardship IS needed in life? A few bridges to cross?

I have two thoughts..(not very well thought out so bear with me…)

1. Society as a WHOLE is not used to hardships. You pointed that out when you said there would be protests if kids had to get off the bus in this day and age. We are not brought up to deal with LITTLE inconveniences, much less big ones. So do we go out of our way to inconvenience ourselves in case something big and bad happens in the future? So that we’ll be “prepared” Not necessarily, but would getting used to a few inconveniences, making ourselves uncomfortable once in awhile for a greater good help? I think so. (Example: withholding from instant gratification to save for something more important later)

2. Attitude. Your attitude at crossing the bridge was not one of “Why ME? WHO did this? Why don’t they put a better bridge in??” It was more of a “Well, let’s see what happens and deal with that. Let’s use our brains and do our best in this situation.” I think attitude when faced with the inevitable bridge makes a huge difference in how we handle what life throws at us.

Well, your post had some resonance with me today. We’ve hit a bridge in our life right now…and let me tell you what a learning experience and attitude adjustment it has been! And learning and growing is HARD. Even at forty. And I realize that my attitude and my posture NOW will effect how my daughter deals with her own bridges later in life.

Phew. Great post…and now…back to my own little learning experience!

erin July 22, 2008 at 8:47 am

I like this post, Stef. You always have me thinking.
It’s true – we have it easy. We really do. And so I try to show my girls that hard work pays off and that all we have is because we work for it, not because we are entitled to it. And that there is a difference between want and need. I think that if they truly understand this bit, when hardships comes a knocking, they will handle it just fine. Maybe not gracefully, but just fine.
I am pretty sure you know what I mean.

nicole July 22, 2008 at 9:16 am

i’m still giggling! … but wait don’t we all hope fro a little grace? you were right on! you always make me reconsider things :0)

Katie July 22, 2008 at 9:41 am

Well first off, I solved my ‘Burban conundrom by driving over the scales at a weigh station…I cheated. I have a 1/2 ton version and it weighed in at 6,500lbs, that is with the whole family. 🙂

May I just say that you are an amazing writer. I don’t want you to get too puffed up but, Stefani, girl you got it goin’ on. You truly have a gift. This post was so thoughtful and beautiful.

You can fold me up and put me back in you pocket again 😛

Mama Urchin July 22, 2008 at 9:56 am

Another wonderful post. I too drive a big old gas guzzler (Landrover) and I wouldn’t trade it for anything except maybe a newer version. I love that car and it keeps my urchins safe. Anyway, I’ve had the same problem with the height and parking garages. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been honked at while I’m considering if the height of the car is one inch more or one inch less than the maximum for the garage. Finally Papa wrote it on a piece of tape and stuck it on my visor.

Julie Alvarez July 22, 2008 at 10:48 am

This is such a great metaphore. I love it.

Thimbleina July 22, 2008 at 10:54 am

Hardship, risk and peril I think are part of the things that help to build up people’s characters.

Allison Fouse July 22, 2008 at 11:49 am

Hi Stefani,

For future reference,a Suburban weighs around 5,000 lbs. =)

Abbs July 22, 2008 at 11:52 am

New to your blog and haven’t read a post yet that I didn’t like. This is one of my favorites. And despite the fact that the bridge did look a little scary (and I’m not sure I would have crossed), I love the picture. You’re right, it is very quaint.

Abbs July 22, 2008 at 11:58 am

p.s. glad you made it safely. hope you have the same fate through all of life’s bridges that you must cross with bated breath.

Christina July 22, 2008 at 11:59 am

Well said! I often think about what it would be like to go from “high times” like we’re livin’ in right now…to a war-torn or oppressive national state. Your Granny’s story was great because that’s just the way life was- no belly-achin’ or sense of entitlement that we so often are prone to in our society these days. Titanium bridge…love it!

Wendi July 22, 2008 at 12:06 pm

so, where in east texas are you? look’s like it is around Henderson, Kilgore area? i swear I have been on that bridge.

Kelsey July 22, 2008 at 12:19 pm

Been there done that…I have an Excursion and with the 5 of us in it and a full tank of gas we weigh in about 9,000 lbs. We were out driving through some back roads around Southern Oregon and came across a little bridge, as hubby was about to drive over it I asked i f I could get out and walk across…He laughed because I was going to leave him and the kids in the car and walk across, so he guilted me into riding across it with them, but we all lived.
It’s a heck of a ride in tabagen on the ice! Our driveway freezes over in the winter and I just flat out refuse to go down it some days!

Carolyn July 22, 2008 at 12:34 pm

Great analogy, thanks for sharing that!

emily July 22, 2008 at 12:45 pm

i have thought an awful lot about this – whether i’m teaching my kids to be too cautious without meaning to. (i’m pretty sure the answer is yes.)

and, i drive a minivan. there.

Sarah July 22, 2008 at 7:06 pm

I recently found your blog. You have a gift for story telling. This post reeled me in and then made me think. I love it.

mountain mama July 22, 2008 at 8:26 pm

If you open the driver’s side door and look on the inside between the outside part and the inside part of the door, there is a sticker on there that tells you what the car weighs. Go look! Unless they moved it somewhere else, that’s where they keep the general info of the vehicle in case the owner’s manual gets lost.

Stephanie July 22, 2008 at 10:20 pm

Have you been over to Jessie’s place at Diary of a Self-Portrait? She just restarted her “Be Brave” campaign and I think you would qualify today.

In the meantime, drop by my place if you can. I have an award for you.

miss chris July 23, 2008 at 1:08 pm

Late to the party, but so enjoyed this sweet post. You, girl, make me stop and think. Every time. Thank you for that. xo

robin bird July 27, 2008 at 9:05 am

you tell a great story! i love your humor and playfulness in your posts… and the photos well….they are awesome 🙂

OMSH July 27, 2008 at 2:55 pm

My grandparents had one of these bridges that led over a creek bed to the back pasture. The tractor could go over it and I was with my Grandma when she drove her green Galaxy over it to check on my Grandpa and see if he needed to stop for water or a snack.

As it began to get more and more rickety, we’d only walk across it, careful to “mind the loose boards there”.

This brings back a lot of memories.

hanna July 27, 2008 at 9:51 pm

I love this story. This is something I think about lots. We live in a tiny house, by modern day standards, but so often I feel like I’m living in luxury. I think of my great grandmother and other pioneer women before me and how they lived. We have running water, easy transport, power, washing machines, plentiful and ‘exotic’ food, heaters when we have to get up in the winter night and feed our babies, etc etc. We do have it so easy, yet we feel like we need more and we complain when things aren’t ‘easy’. Hard times and tricky circumstances definately lift me up and make me appreciate what I have. For example this last week we’ve all had a bad flu AND the power off for 24 hours – so now I REALLY appreciate having power and being healthy, something that last week I didn’t even think about!

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