Somewhere in this new neighborhood, there is a train whistle. A very loud train whistle. I’ve heard it twice since we have been here. Always late at night. Always loud enough to vibrate through our (mostly) double paned windows (remember – repo here) and into my heart memories. A crazy external “thing” that somehow has become an intrinsic part of my core. You see – I grew up a stone’s throw away from a railroad track and all it entails.
Before I could walk, my daddy carried me down along the railroad tracks. My big brother and mother could have been there, but all i really remember was his voice, his hands and body. I curled my arms tightly around him and tucked my head into his neck just so I could hear his voice and heartbeat rumble through my ears. What can I say? I will always be a daddy’s girl. Teaching me, even then, to have a healthy respect for these big loud machines. More than that – teaching me to love them. The cinders crunched under his feet, and I remember squirming to look down, The loud whistle startled me. (It still does.) A dark wooden platform that creaked as we crossed it to sit on a bench that vibrated under us as the big monster slowed to a crawl and noisily stopped in front of us.
In the 50’s, trains were still a central part of the industrial world. Hauling passengers to far away cities. Carrying supplies to factories that needed them. Oil. Coal. Switch tracks. Long waits for cars at the crossings. Workmen repairing essential parts for the safety of the trains and the people who lived around them. Bridges connecting roads above the parallel rails that seem to drift into eternity. A small neighborhood here and there along side those same tracks. In the old days one of those neighborhoods got the name “Black town”. Mom said it was because of the black soot that drifted down over the houses from the coal burning engines. All I know for sure is that this was my neighborhood. My childhood home.
When I heard the train whistle in our new home, I suddenly realized how much this new house is like my childhood home. A small neighborhood. A corner lot. Mature trees and a few pines surrounding it. A fireplace. Nooks and crannies that whisper to my curiosity. A house number that has the year I graduated from high school tucked within it. And a train whistle that echoes over the hilly ravines around us.
Mom told the story that when she and dad were looking at this house to buy, she asked if the trains were a problem. (I’m not sure why since the McCaskey old brick was literally right beside the train tracks so she should have known even if she hadn’t lived there). The sellers said that they hardly noticed it at all. Believe it or not, we hardly did either.
Actually, I never lived very far from the tracks. I turned 7 in a house just a couple of blocks north of the railroad. There were no remotes for the T.V.in those days, so I was the one to get up and turn the volume up or down when needed, but (mostly) if moving wasn’t required, I just read the book on my lap, got a snack or talked to the parents or Chico until the train disappeared into the distance. It never woke me up at night and, in fact, became my own comforter that left me lost and sleepless for while when I moved to the city to attend college.
The more I think about that whistle, the more I look forward to hearing it again. I will jump and I will go to the window to see if I can see the train coming down the track. For somewhere deep inside me, I am silently hoping that when Christ returns to earth, that final trumpet will sound a little like a very loud and long train whistle. If it does,I know I will hear my Father’s voice in my ears as He lifts me high into His strong arms, and we can walk the tracks together once again.