Granny’s Gates – Golden and Pearly

May 13, 2014 | 0 comments

Under the Golden Gate Bridge

Sailing Beneath the Golden Gate Bridge

Growing up in the Bay Area as I did, “Golden Gate” was a familiar term. Even now, however, I associate the ‘Gate’ with the bridge linking San Francisco to Marin County. It’s hard for me to think of it as the strait that connects San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean.  In my mind, a gate has substance, like the bridge; it’s a gateway that is an opening. Had John C. Fremont asked my advice back in 1846 when he named the strait, I’d have suggested “Golden Gateway.”

I pondered some of these childish misunderstandings last week as the Norwegian Pearl made her way under the bridge that I’ve known from above for most of my life. It was built the year after I was born and though I’ve walked and ridden across it and have looked down on it from private planes and airliners, gliding beneath it was a new experience.

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The City by the Golden Gate

The seas were calm and we seemed to slip underneath the span – both arriving and leaving twelve hours later – without effort. I managed to look up and to see the bridge from below, but I found it difficult to tear my eyes away for the view of the city. As many times as I see San Francisco, from whatever vantage point and whether or not it is shrouded in fog, I find it a spectacular sight. The view from the Golden Gate was no exception.

My thoughts wandered backward in time – clear back to 1895 when my grandparents were courting. How did they travel from East Oakland where my grandmother lived clear to Muir Woods in Marin where they sat under a “special tree” and declared their love for one another? My grandmother told me the story many times when I was a little girl – of how they crossed the Golden Gate on a family outing and she knew in her heart that, by day’s end, her life would be forever changed.

Helen Richardson (Espy) 1896

Helen Richardson (Espy) 1896

Of course, I always pictured them crossing the bridge. Never mind that it would not be built for another forty-plus years. As it turned out, though my grandmother had crossed the bridge many times when she visited us from Oysterville, she didn’t ever see it for a good many years. By the time it was built, she had lost her sight, and it wasn’t until she flew into San Francisco after her 1948 cataract surgery in New York that she got her first glimpse of the magnificent span.

That was only a few years before she died and, even now, my thoughts of my beloved Granny and the Pearly Gates and the Golden Gate are all a-jumble. A very pleasant jumble, indeed.

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