Gratitude Sunday: Train Music

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week
– “Sure, jets are fast and economical, but, oh my, what fun we’ve lost and what leisure we’ve sacrificed in the race to efficiency. Somehow, stepping onto a plane and zooming across the United States in a matter of hours doesn’t hold a candle to the dear, old-fashioned train ride.” Ginger Rogers

Sunday Haiku
Too many choices
in spring, more brilliant colors
to delight my eyes.

Sunday Musings
The early spring night is warm enough to crack the window open an inch to let in the fresh cool air. As I drift off the train whistle blows and I am drawn to a memory from my childhood.

Every summer my family visited my maternal grandparents. We lived in the Portland metro area and they lived in Caldwell, Idaho. The trip was always an adventure: how to get all the kids, the dog, the stuff, and the food packed into the family station wagon in the days before the third seat in the back of minivans. Were any cousins going and how do we fit them in? Sometimes all the logistics flew out the window despite my dad’s obsessive control about stuff and all the accoutrements of a family of six got thrown in alongside us kids.

One year when we were small Dad couldn’t get off work. There was no way Mom was going to skip her only annual visit to see her family. Mom made arrangements with her brother to take all us kids on the train for the trip to Idaho. That was Mom and Uncle, two adults, us four kids and Uncle’s two, six kids. I don’t remember how old I was but I know I wasn’t in my teens yet, so that meant there likely were one or two of them in diapers still.

That blows my mind, six kids and two adults. Granted times were a bit different in the early 1960s (what did people do back in the day when it was customary to have a dozen kids?), but I could barely manage handling one son when we traveled, which we didn’t do much of because I am the world’s worst traveler (though I always have traveled in poverty on a wing and a prayer, so we shall never know if I’d had the insulation of finances if I would have enjoyed traveling. I predict this will not change in the future because: no money). I was a protective parent, letting the son explore within limits. Now as an adult he is busy exploring. It’s a good thing.

I don’t remember that train ride like I remember the Coast Starlight Express that took me down the Pacific Coast to the Monterrey Jazz Festival in 1974 when I was exploring early adulthood. It was one of the first trips on my own; I was meeting a young man I’d met in Portland whose family lived near Monterrey. As the sun set in the west it was supposed to relax you along with the rhythmic chug of the engine and the singing of the rails so you could sleep the overnight hours it took to get to Monterrey. I was so wound up from being on my own I didn’t sleep but spent the night trying to look beyond my reflection in the train windows, looking for any glimpse of the ocean. I arrived in San Jose (Do You Know the Way to San Jose? Dionne Warwick, 1968), which was near my young man’s house. He was actually there to pick me up so I was already impressed after having been stood up for dates routinely most of my life. I was so lucky the young man’s family were lovely upper middle class hosts (I’d never experienced upper middle class before!) and gave me my own room and bath, conservative people who treated me like I was a guest in a first class hotel. The young man and I drove to Monterrey, where he was able to get tickets into the show I had pre-purchased. Man, California September evening, a Sarah Vaughn concert, and everybody grooving. The flight home wasn’t nearly as groovy as the train ride there.

I don’t remember if Dad dropped us off at the train station that year, if we took the bus, or if Uncle drove us and left his car in the station lot. I don’t remember saying goodbye to Dad at all. I was such a poor traveler as a child the first hour or two going away from home was always like trauma. It took me that long to relax into the rhythm of the vehicle. The train was no different.

Mom was a clever woman. We left in late afternoon and traveled overnight. We slept most of the way. So much easier to keep track of six sleeping kids than six awake, vacation manic/new experience/on the edge kids. I suspect Mom and Uncle may have taken turns staying awake while the other slept so somebody always had one eye on the littles while we were all in a strange place. I would have, but as I say times were a little different then.

Here’s what I remember: Mom waking us as it was still dark. Gathering up our things. The close but far away sound of the train whistle from inside the slowing train car. Stepping off the train onto a vast (little kid vast) gray concrete tarmac. The sun coming up over the horizon as we stepped off the train and the feeling of stepping into a whole new shining world. How chilly cool the first hour of morning was. The smell of cow manure, rich and ripe, from the local Simplot’s farming operation, which Mom said smelled like home. The train pulling away with a long slow whistle that sounded as sad as being left behind. Grandpa pulling up in his battered old pickup truck. Six kids climbing all over Grandpa in his ubiquitous denim over-alls and khaki workshirt, like puppies who haven’t seen their mother all day (well, we hadn’t seen him for a year!). Piling into the open bed of Grandpa’s pickup truck (in the days when nobody had given it any thought, especially farm folks) for the ride home to the farm.

We were in a new world. To us. I’d grown up a suburban kid. My family and many neighbors had victory gardens, but inside city limits no livestock was allowed. A local dairy delivered milk, butter, and eggs every day before we got a local grocery store. We had indoor flush toilets and running water. We had electricity and electric stoves. Visiting our family was like going backward in time. They’d grown up as country kids. They lived on farms that included chickens, pigs, and cows. Grandpa managed farms for other land owners and part of his compensation came in the form of housing. One house Grandma and Grandpa lived in had a no electricity, an out-house, and a water pump in the yard. Grandma had a wood cookstove and as it was summer that’s what heated the house in the morning. Canning was done outside on makeshift tables, and carried indoors for water bathing in the canner on the wood cookstove first thing in the morning as soon as the harvest came in to limit the heat in the house. We carried a lot of water and wood at that house.

Most of the houses I’ve lived in or spent the night in have been within earshot of a train. Both sets of grandparents, my parental home, so many of the rural and suburban houses I’ve rented, and now, what I hope will be the last home I live in. My little burg is near the mapsite of Carnation where local milk was condensed and canned beginning in 1902. The place doesn’t exist anymore except on maps but there was a train station and post office and the train still runs through its once most important stop. The way the smooth hills and dales of my community lie I can hear the whistles from more than a mile away. Every time the whistle blows the memories of other homes and other times return.

I don’t remember the train ride home. After acclimating to the vacation place, traveling home again has always been just as hard as the going in the first place. We had so much fun playing with cousins, being fawned over and over fed by aunts, and teased and laughed at by uncles. Grandma and Grandpa were good for a snuggle any time. I wanted to go home, but I didn’t want to leave; the feelings were the same every year. Ambivalent traveling. We must have taken the train home.

I am not troubled by my lack of memory. It indicates how young I was and the degree to which I remember having issues with traveling even at a young age. I remember the best parts, the vibrant color of the sky and the chill stepping down into the dawn, the nose tingling tang of cow manure, the lonesome sound of the train whistle as it pulled out of the station, Grandpa being so happy to see us. We were, after all, his first born son and daughter and all their passel he’d not seen for a year, and he’d come to take us home.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – What is the name for the soft shade of red in the flowering quince? Baby pink Tinkerbell sized fairy bells. Yellow daffodil faces the color of sunshine. I don’t know what these hot pink and creamy floral earrings are; they remind me of the fairy bells above only on steroids. Raindrops sparkling on my favorite purple azalea.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018, rated PG – 13), the follow-up to Ant-Man (2015, rated PG – 13) obviously, another Marvel Studios production and the same humorous fun, though it became obvious I’ve missed part of the story involving the Avengers. I’ll have to figure out which order to watch these in to get the whole story in order. Or not. I don’t care about the story or the characters all that much, they are sheerly entertaining and fun as stand alones even if you don’t know the whole story. * The Last Movie Star (2017, rated R) with Burt Reynolds as an aging movie star who is invited to a small film festival and the adventure he takes when he gets there. Kathleen Nolan, who played Kate McCoy in the TV series The Real McCoys (1957-1963, TV series, not rated), plays a guest role, as his first wife now debilitated with Alzheimer’s. Recommended. * Girls (2012, rated TV – MA) starring Lena Dunham. Created by Lena Dunham. Written by Lena Dunham. Produced by Lena Dunham. Some episodes are even directed by Lena Dunham. Today’s twenty-something young women are going through the same but different experiences of my twenties. Dunham has a brilliant way of expressing it.

Currently ReadingThe Witch Elm (2018, fiction) by Tana French (American-Irish novelist). At that place where the story is this close to being done and I should lock myself in the bathroom and just finish. But oh, the glory of delayed gratification. The author is wrapping me up like a spider wrapping her prey in sticky silk. Each time I think I have it figured out up comes another plot twist to tweak your thinking, and yet, all the clues have been laid out already. * Utopia For Realists: How We Can Build The Ideal World (2017, sociology) by Rutger Bregman (Dutch historian) who maintains with a world of automation coming we have to figure out the best way for people to have a basic living income, if it can’t be through earned wages. His ideas are not communistic, nor are they radical, but they are based on historical successes and pragmatism.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Cleaning. No matter how long it takes.
  • Being easy on myself during a week of gadolinium headaches.
  • Beach dreaming, even if not beach going.
  • The variable invariable weather. Sun and rain of early spring.
  • How I love an open door. And screens.
  • Spotting a loose gutter and the hubster tackling the fix before I said something.
  • The smell of freshly mowed grass, even though it means the sweet little grasses are complaining about getting their heads cut off.
  • BIRDS SINGING! OH MY GOD. Birds singing.
  • The sweet fragrance of plum blossoms. I wish I had smell-o-vision to share.
  • Spotting bees among the plum blossoms.
  • What my plum tree gives me every year, but most of it is going to have to be removed soon, as the main trunk split from an ice wedge two winters ago and it now hangs precariously over the driveway.
  • Creating more with what one already has.
  • How much I love when things click. I used to follow an Oregon blogger and knitter who makes hand made buttons. When a local yarn dealer opened the year I was looking for work I went in and talked to them to see if they needed counter help. I figured if they needed to refresh me as a knitting teacher, I’m in, too. There was no job, but the type of store it was and the accessories she carried suited the work of the blogger so I wrote down the blog site for the shop owner and gushed about how pretty the buttons looked in her pictures. This week I randomly looked up the writer’s blog to see if she was still writing and found a recent post about the local yarn store carrying her buttons and I am brilliantly pleased it clicked. It seemed like the perfect fit.
  • A success with some chicken thighs and an Italian dressing/Dijon mustard marinade trying to use up odds and ends in the fridge.
  • Avocados.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

This entry was posted in abundance, Aging, Family, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, History, Homemaking, Nature, Parenting, Photography, Poetry, Vacations and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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