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Trains

We've been hearing a lot of train whistles lately. Probably something to do with the air quality. I mean, the trains are no nearer than they've ever been, right? It's not like they're suddenly running down the middle of our street. I think we'd notice. But Shannon and I have both commented on the train whistles these past few days. Last night, we heard a very persistent train whistle, sounding over and over and over again, as if the engineer was persistently responding to someone who was lying on the tracks and refusing to move.

Strangely enough, the train tracks are not very near to our house. More than a mile away, I'd guess. But we hear train whistles every day. Or, rather, every night. Several times each night. It's nice. I like the sound of train whistles. They always remind me of Ray Bradbury's book Something Wicked This Way Comes, which I read during one of my earliest visits to Berkeley, long before I thought of moving here. They're also one of the nice memories of when I was a kid.

I grew up right near train tracks. The trains didn't often sound their whistles near us -- unless a kid was out playing on the tracks -- because we weren't near a station. But every time a train went by -- which was a couple times each day -- our entire apartment would shake as if there were an earthquake. The lamp suspended from the ceiling would sway. Mom's collection of little porcelain deer figurines would "walk" on their shelves, sometimes "committing suicide", which usually only resulted in the loss of a tiny porcelain leg. Whenever we'd get an actual earthquake, it would take us a minute or two to recognize it, since we'd at first assume it was a train.

Alan and I walked to school via the train tracks: elementary school, junior high, and high school. I was really good at balancing on the rails. I never did any of the stuff like putting coins on the rails, because I thought that was stupid. Plus, you know, if a train went flying off the rails because of a penny, it would probably kill me. And that would be a really dumb way to die.

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slipjig
Jul. 10th, 2003 05:37 pm (UTC)
Sigh...you're reminding me of my Grandma and Grandpa's old house, which had train tracks just on the other side of the backyard fence. The tree nearest the fence had a little seat hammered in about 3 feet up, and my sister and I used to sit up there to watch trains go by. Best of all, though, was when we'd sleep over: every morning a train would rumble past around 5 in the morning, and I could just lie there in that cloudy space between sleeping and waking, and feel the mattress tremble beneath me, listening to the whistles.

Grandma and Grandpa haven't been in that house in many years. I miss it to death. I miss trains in general. Growing up in the Chicago suburbs, I became very accustomed to being stuck in the car at the crossing gate, waiting for yet another endless freight train to mosey past. I remember wanting to tear out my hair in frustration when we'd wait an eternity for a train to pass, screech to a halt with just two cars to go, and begin...to...back...up. I hated it, hated, hated it. And now, living in upstate New York, I miss it more than I can say.

Thank you, Kimberly, for the reminder. I needed it.
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