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Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Grandfather, knew the value of field tips


“When a caterpillar bursts from its cocoon and discovers it has wings, it does not sit idly, hoping to one day turn back. It flies.” ~ 
Kelseyleigh Reber

For over a hundred years, the men in my family dug New York’s tunnels, walked the steel beams of the skyscrapers, painted the bridges, and cleaned chemical tanks in Jersey. This was my father. These men did these jobs with little or no protection. They drank hard, and many died early. My father would not see 63. He died of Tuberculosis, like so many others he knew.

My grandfather wanted something more, and he offered his grandson a universe of books. He walked me over to Steven’s College in Hoboken when I was 10 years old, doing poorly in school.

He took me inside, we went into an empty classroom, and he said, smell that. No paint, oils, or chemicals. It smells like a sweet clean, like a summer breeze. Are you taking this in Little Jess? Then we took a cold drink from a hallway fountain. Taste that, Little Jess, think about it; this water is always cold.

Little Jess, if I had my life to live over, I would walk and learn it all in these Ivy Walls. Then we went outside, found a spot on the perfectly manicured lawn, and laid back looking up at the sky. It was one of his most powerful, memorable lessons meant only for me.

We walked around the whole place, the sports fields, and every tree-lined path. He stopped at every status, read the names on every building. He said I have never been to Rome but made it to France during the war. I saw the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. There are many kinds of cathedrals. Universities are Catherfrals in some ways. They are my favorites.

We could see the New York Skyline from that college. He would point out the buildings and bridges he worked on, and say your father and Uncle Bill worked on that one with me.

As we left his cathedral that day, he turned us around to look back one last time. I had never walked on a college campus before. I had never seen anything like it, did not really understand most of it, but that old man planted a seed that day in his grandson. I learned about the value of field trips and cathedrals from him.

I love and deeply respect those laborers who built the bridges I ride on today. I learned about these Learning cathedrals from one of them. Not one of them ever stepped in my way. Instead, they encouraged the kid who loved books, the library and would learn to love school one day.

They were as proud of me as I am of them.
Here’s to the ones who built America,
Little Jess  

If you like to listen to the tune that inspired my morning walk today? Its Bruce Springsteen's " The River".

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