I live and work in Westchester, so my trips over the Tappan Zee Bridge are occasional, at best. Yet, each time I drive west on I-287, reaching the edge of the Hudson River crossing, I am fascinated by the progress being made on the new structure, and I find myself waxing nostalgic for the old Tappan Zee. With every trip across the span, I recall the destinations and events that had led me there previously.
In the ’60s, there were across-the-bridge trips to Catskill Mountain resorts—the Raleigh, Kutcher’s, Grossinger’s, and The Concord, to name a few. For a weekend away, my family would fill our car with suitcases packed with enough clothing to last a lifetime. (Those were the days when you were expected to “dress” for dinner.) One particular trip was for a cousin’s bar mitzvah at one of the hotels. I was excited to wear the new silver mini-dress I’d purchased for the occasion. When we arrived at the hotel, following a three-hour trek from Brooklyn, I discovered that I had left the coveted dress behind. My dad, appreciating my preteen devastation and my mother’s imploring stare, dutifully got back into the car, driving over the Tappan Zee twice more. He arrived, exhausted, six hours later, just in time for me to change into my silver sensation for the reception.
Years later, my husband and I would cross the bridge every July to visit our niece and nephew and, eventually, our three boys at sleepaway camp. Our car trunk was once again filled, but this time with visiting-day essentials: lawn chairs, blankets, coolers filled with food and beverages, and gifts for our children and their bunkmates. On the way there, we usually breezed over the bridge, excited to see our children after several weeks apart. At the end of the day, we crawled home in summer-Sunday traffic, bug-bitten and exhausted, so very thankful to see the lights of the bridge that would lead us home to Westchester.
These days, my infrequent trips over the Tappan Zee are for visits to Piermont, shopping excursions to Woodbury Commons, or for craft shows in Rockland or Orange County. During these trips I find myself mesmerized by the many cranes emerging from the Hudson, like massive floating giraffes, and I know the end of the original Tappan Zee is near. Logically, I appreciate the need for the new bridge—a modern structure capable of safely transporting the thousands of vehicles that will cross it each day. But I will miss the old Tappan Zee. Its metal skeleton may be obsolete now, but my fond memories of it are as durable as the day it was built.