The Lowenstein impulse

in Lee Scott/Voices by

By Lee Scott

I saw it last week – a woman in her red mini-cooper driving next to me over the bridge near Parris Island. It was one of those beautiful days when the thermostat was heading towards eighty degrees and the sky was a clear blue. The February chill was finally behind us. The top was down on her convertible and I heard her as her arms went up in the air, “Lowenstein, Lowenstein!” I knew what she was doing that day. Anyone who has read the book “Prince of Tides” by Pat Conroy or seen the movie “Prince of Tides” will recognize it. Tom Wingo, the main character in the book, says it as he crosses one of the bridges out of Charleston that take him home in the evening. He says it “as prayer, as regret, as praise”. “Lowenstein, Lowenstein! It is soulful.”

The Lowenstein impulse hit me the first time I drove over the old railroad bridge into Charleston. It was the fall of 1996 (right after Hurricane Fran struck the east coast). My daughter and I were doing the tour of colleges and we were headed to the College of Charleston. As we drove over the bridge in her little VW Cabriolet, I put up my arms and said, “Lowenstein, Lowenstein.” You can imagine my seventeen year olds reaction, but when I told her the story, she understood. She told me that later after she had started classes at the College of Charleston, she would say it too, especially on those days that were particularly spectacular.

For me, who moved around a lot as a child, my birthplace does not hold the same significance it would have had I grown up there. My father was Civil Service and although I was born in Rhode Island, I only spent three short months there before we moved. When people ask where I am from, it is a tough question to answer because I have lived so many places. Children of military families say they have the same problem. But sometimes, you feel a connection to a place.

It has been almost twenty years since my daughter and I did that trip and I never expected to see myself driving over the Low Country bridges as I do now. Here I am in Beaufort finding myself looking up through the sunroof of my car and saying it. “Lowenstein, Lowenstein.” It is the sense of being thankful for life; but also now for being home. When I saw the woman in the mini cooper with her arms in the air, I thought of how many people must be inspired to do the same thing. As with Tom Wingo we are headed home.