Do I really need to introduce BatGirl? She is a dear friend of mine from way back when college who I met having gone into a random roommate living situation after a year off from college. Assigned by lottery, I would have to say that I won the best prize ever. She often contributes to this here blog either by joining me in being up to no good, thoughtful and/or supportive comments, or posting when I’m out of town.
Several weekends ago I took a train ride to visit our lovely Blostess, (blog-hostess) Court. As I sat down in my seat I was bombarded with the same sense of nostalgia that fills me whenever I set foot onto an Amtrak train. So many of my memories are tied to the departing and arriving of Amtrak trains. The sounds of the train chugging along, the voices of the conductors, and the soft mummers of the passengers around me bring them all rushing back.
When I was young my brother and I used to travel by Amtrak to visit my Aunt and Uncle. My mother would put us on the train in Penn Station and an hour and half later we’d find ourselves greeted on the platform by my smiling Uncle. We’d pass time by playing gameboys, reading, annoying each other, and generally enjoying the freedom of traveling alone. My parents had been through a bit of an ugly divorce, not unlike many other kids my age, and trips up to my Aunt and Uncle’s house became a tonic. We’d spend the weekend swimming, watching movies, and generally doing the sorts of fun things that make Aunts and Uncles so special. I could wax poetic about the ways that those visits soothed my soul but would never be able to do it justice. So instead I’ll just say that I treasure them still.
Many years later I attended college in a town that connected to theirs via that same Amtrak line. I would go to visit them, much the same way I had over the years. My Aunt always insisting that I bring my laundry down from school with me, (Aunts really are like second mothers, are they not?) knowing that access to a washer and dryer that didn’t need quarters was like gold to a college kid. My visits to their home, which are now taken by car, still bring me the comfort and happiness they did then, though they involve significantly less laundry detergent.
During my senior year of high school grandmother had surgery on her shoulder to repair a torn rotator cuff. She and my grandfather were in Florida for the winter at the time and they needed someone to help out while she healed. I took the train down to help them (for reasons which still elude me as I had always flown up until then and continued to afterwards.) It was a little under 24 hours worth of chugging along the east coast, watching pine trees turn into palms.
Included among the amenities of that train were televisions used to play movies throughout the cars. About an hour after our departure a conductor loaded in a DVD of Seven Years in Tibet and shortly thereafter I fell asleep. I woke up from my nap halfway through the movie, watched a bit, then promptly fell asleep again. I went through cycles of awake and reading, asleep, awake and listening to my cd player, asleep, awake and watching the movie, asleep. However it seemed that every time I awoke the movie was still on and in almost the same place as the time before. I estimated that the movie must have run at least three times, leading to my conclusion that surely I had spent 21 years in Tibet. It was either that or I was the subject of a terrible practical joke.
Back in the Stone Age, also known as my freshman year of college, I was disappointed to learn that my University wouldn’t allow non-commuter freshman to have cars on campus. At the end of the summer I reluctantly left my car parked on the street outside my mother’s house and piled all my junk into her minivan. Over the course of that first year I took the train home for all of my school breaks. For Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and spring break, and for weekends home to visit my boyfriend. Looking back I realize that each trip was an integral part of my becoming the person I am today. They helped bridge the gap between who I was, the connections to my home, my family, my friends, and my past, and the person I am today. For that reason, those trips may actually be the most valuable of them all.