The hailing call of trains has morphed through the years to encompass a collage of meaning for me personally. Some of it haunts, suggesting I missed it completely, misunderstanding my own sense of things. But I’m not sure. I can’t know. I’ve been shut out of clarity by circumstances beyond my control. While this is all cryptic sounding, one can surmise that there’s a connection to a relationship whose ending was more sudden than grace-filled. So, I hear the hailing haunt and some days it harks back to moments before the more melancholy connection was made with such a heavily symbolic object and I smile. I remember the earlier promise of healing, of play. Other days, I sigh. Other days, I make no connection, intent on my mowing, my writing, gardening or tending to my children.
The other night one of my sons needed extra time with me. It was his night to be with dad but he needed mom-talk. So, he ran back into the house to get one more hug, jumped up in my arms and squeezed extra tight, saying “Remember that night I wished I could stay with you? Well…I feel that way again. We never got that time.” Whatever strange and sad misconceptions I have had about the male animal have been blasted by the presence of two sons. They are human, after all (I grew up in a family of 4 daughters, no sons. And my dad’s attitude about men consisted mainly of cynicism, incriminating suspicion and mistrust.). They are tender. They are vulnerable and needing. They are manipulative and sweet. They are brilliant and articulate and can talk about their emotions and their hopes, their pleasures. And talk. And talk. Wow, males who talk! And listen. They listen very well. They don’t forget either. “Mom, I remembered you like acorns. I brought you some from the playground.” “Mom, did you finish that drawing?” You remembered me? (Youngest Daughter Syndrome: No one hears me or sees me even when I speak. Give me a book to read and something to write on. Where is my corner to hide?)
Since my kids alternate 7 days on and 7 days off, switching evenings between their parents, a time or two of needing to disrupt the routine is not too big a deal. That’s a long time. 7 days. I agreed it was a good time to have him stay with me. So, he stayed to talk, to get things ready for school and go to bed. And I crawled into his brother’s twin bed tiny and we talked. And talked. He had some things troubling him at school. He needed an adult’s perspective. I recalled similar times of conflict with friends and we compared notes and plotted his strategy and bolstered his confidence. He takes things to heart immediately and has a heart bigger than most. So, when things go awry, he’s a wreck ‘til he figures out a game plan. He was a wreck. But we figured it all out. But once the guy gets going, he has a hard time stopping the flow of gab. My eyes were getting heavy. “Ev…er…I’m about to pass out. You’re going to say something and I’ll snore.” “Mom…” Choooo chooooo…
The night’s train calls a different greeting. It takes me back to nights of sleeplessness as a child when I’d feel so forlorn. The house all quiet with sounds of all asleep but me. It was distressing. Surreal. And out of the blue would come the hail of the night train. I loved it. Someone is awake. Someone is working. Someone is focusing. As I do now, I attached meaning to the sound, giving it a voice of encouragement: “Hello Ruth…you’re not alone…life is good…don’t worry…you’re not alone…go to sleep…” I’d whisper: “Hello train…” Truly. I didn’t have imaginary friends. I just talked to trains in the distance.
My son was getting sleepy, his words finding more words. One more thing to tell me. I interrupted him when the train called: “Evan. Do you hear that? Shhh…listen.” He got very quiet. “It’s calling you…Evan…life is good…all is well…go to sleep. Every time you hear a train in the night, remember that’s what it says.” He passed out on that note.
I sighed. And tossed. And turned. Twin beds are not my thing anymore. I remembered trains and long sleepless nights and feeling like a helpless kid. It was worth the horrible sleep to be there for a little guy precious.
And I woke the next day appreciating the call of a train even more. My son had added his presence.
So, I’m inundated. Beautifully inundated with the call of trains. Day and night. Trains yell at me from the city park during the day, a child’s train with an almost annoying beseeching hail. It was so quaint when I moved here 9 years ago! Now I hear words spoken to me about that train. “When you hear that train, know…” And I do remember. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it’s a comfort. I remember the night train too and my son’s presence at the sound of that familiar hail. It weaves in with every thread, even the pain. And the tapestry evolves into one that haunts not so much of abrupt endings or sleepless nights or unheard kid sisters but of the timelessness of love’s constancy, of the human song trailing along. Trains still call in the night and during the day. Love still flows through new channels and in ways more whole than I knew so long ago, before I knew three children would take me back to my own childhood, pick up the little girl stuck in isolation and bring her into life.
Trains call when nations shudder and bad guys have their day. Trains call while children run, while they play. Trains hail when we stress about problems and their solutions. Trains call and we keep living, drinking the nourishment of our works’ fruition. We keep growing and learning a timeless, immeasurably precious song of resilience in the darkest times.