First Stop for the Train
I lugged the quilt and train stuff to the Community Center. As the Seniors gathered around the table looking at the books and photos, old memories surfaced. Everyone had a train memory.
I was surprised so few in the group had actually ridden a train. One woman from Guatemala described riding a train through the countryside as a child. Another woman from Eagle Lake remembered taking the train into Houston as a child to see the circus.
But the rest had train stories they'd heard from others or they'd seen in movies. I so wished I could gather the group and take them on a train ride. The closest we got was imagining where each of us would go on a train trip. Then we sang the old song, Train is a Comin' Oh Yeah... We changed the words to include all the places we would visit on our train ride. By the end of the song our group was swaying as if we were riding a train and clapping as if we were at an old church revival. Lots of "WooWoos!" thrown out instead of "Amens!" That was an unexpected train tangent!
Down the Tracks to Silverado
I left the Center and headed down Highway 90 along the railroad tracks to Silverado. I didn't get stopped by a train this day. I spread out the same things and heard such different responses.
More Train Stories
Vivian grew up in a house beside the tracks. She recalled hearing the whistle when she was in bed at night. Then the house would begin to shake as the train rumbled by. In the daytime, the kids would wave as the train passed the house.
Rita used to walk across a train bridge to get to school. She claimed they could see far enough down the tracks to cross safely. She never stole coal from the train, but some of the boys did, when the train slowed down near the bridge.
Trains and Kids
We wondered about what made trains so fascinating to children. We thought about toy trains around Christmas trees and zoo trains and circus trains. Pearl thought the little Polar Express train was "cute!" Woody liked the rail spike. Some of us remembered walking down tracks as children, hunting for old spikes.
I told the group about my Uncle Morris who had a great reel to reel recording of a train. When we were children we would lie on his Navajo rug, below a set of impressive speakers.
We'd close our eyes and imagine the train far in the distance...a faint whistle, growing louder...then the rumbling and clickity clacking as the sound grew with intensity! We would grin with our eyes squeezed shut, feeling the vibration from the speaker, as if an actual train was zooming beside us.
I played a similar recording to the Silverado group. Not all closed their eyes, but all grinned and even tooted along! Woody who adores music, used his hands on the table to accompany the increasing rhythm of the train pounding the rails. By the end all were clapping and cheering.
I kept my wooden train whistle hidden for the perfect moment. I blew a double toot, lingering on the last note. My mother's expression was a mixture of surprise and delight...as if she had just captured a delicious memory. I wasn't quite able to conjure up the first reaction when I grabbed the camera and tooted again, but her smile tells me what I already know. My mother has always loved trains!
Last Stop for the Quilt
The very next day, the Quilt headed back down Hwy 90 to the Women's Shelter. Most of the children were preschool age today, so we got to do the fun train stuff.
We "played train" and had plenty of adventures, shooing cows off the tracks and repairing broken rails with imaginary hammers. But the sweetest moment was when I brought out the train cards that the folks at the Community Center had decorated for them. They clung to their train cards until dinner!
What I Learned: For the old, trains conjure up a big hunk of nostalgia. For the young, trains are a thing of fantasy. For me...I could think about trains all day!
For 20+ years children have called it the Magic Quilt. They've danced and pretended all over these colorful squares. I've dragged it to schools, shelters and studios where children have climbed on top to hear Magic Quilt Stories and to act them out.