I read a short story the other day by Southern born and bred Author Rick Bragg. His writings are favorites of mine and I look forward to reading them each month on the last page of Southern Living Magazine. Last month his story was entitled "Stillness". He talked about lying in bed at night as a child and hearing the train whistle in the distance. This line painted such a vivid picture of a memory from my own childhood that I have never forgotten.
I grew up in a very tiny little two bedroom cottage that was painted pink. I shared a small bedroom with my baby brother at the back side of the house. It contained two twin beds, a dresser and not much space to walk around. One window at the head of the bed faced east and the window at the foot end faced north. At night I could hear the train whistle and even the rumble of the train on the tracks. I would lie awake wondering where it was going and who was on it. I was also consumed by thoughts of what was east of those tracks. It was another world. There were other parts of town beyond those tracks, neighborhoods that seemed light years away, where different sorts of people lived lives in fancy neighborhoods. Beyond those neighborhoods a bridge took you across a body of water and on to the island of Palm Beach where very wealthy people lived extremely different lives. There were mansions built on the ocean there and back then people like the Kennedy's and the Post's lived in them.
Outside the north window at the foot of my bed was a huge mango tree, beyond that a lush orange tree. Giant elephant ears grew in that very shady area, it was sort of rain forest like. There was a faucet back there to connect the hose to. It had a slow leak and my Mam-ma had an old metal bucket under it. I could hear the tiny plunk, plunk as the drops hit the water. When it rained I loved to lie on my bed with my head at the foot and watch the rain in that section of the yard. The rain hit the clam shell metal awnings that shaded the windows, and fell on the elephant ears trickling down into the ferns and periwinkles planted there. I loved the sound of it and there was nothing better than lying there listening to it and writing sappy poetry or reading a book. A glorious shelter that was so comforting.
The opposite ends of the bed and the windows placed there looked out onto a view of what my life would become. Out that east window I would meet people on the other side of those tracks as I entered my teenage years. I met Mr. Wonderful over there when we were fourteen. Little did I know that he would become Mr.Wonderful thirty five years later. In my late thirties I traveled by train across Thailand with my kids sleeping in births as the little train made it's way through villages and lush forests. In my forties I moved back home and ended up watching over some of those houses over on the Island while supporting my little family. Who knew that little girl dreaming inside that east facing window would grow up and do those things ?
Everywhere I lived in my adult life I have attempted to re-create the vision, the feeling I felt looking out that North window. The little rain forest, right down to the elephant ears and happy little periwinkle flowers. You will see them all where I live now. I feel that serenity as I look out of the screen porch while listening to the rain as I write these words today. Hopefully, not too sappy.
**Thank you Rick Bragg for the memory prompt.