The sixth day after Christmas, the six laying geese wouldn’t lay
I gave the whole darn gaggle to the A.S.P.C.A
On the seventh day, what a mess I found
all seven of the swimming swans had drowned
My true love, my true love, my true love gave to me
– The Twelve Days After Christmas, by Frederick Silver
Last night, lying in the too-hard bed in the Bossier City Hilton I heard two recurring sounds: my husband’s snoring (like many men, Fuzzy can fall asleep anywhere, even if he’s not actually tired), and train whistles.
After nudging my husband to make him roll over (and therefore stop snoring), I listened to the trains a while longer.
Train whistles never sound anything but mournful. My friend Stonefish says it’s just the physics of sound, but I think it’s more. I think there’s a romanticism associated with trains that never quite leaves us.
At least, that’s true in my family.
Some of my earliest memories involve setting up model trains – HO scale – with my grandfather, creating circuits of track on the sculptured red carpet of the living room, and using the controls to make them go forward and backward. Later, I would have access to a train room, with a high trestle and a low trestle and tiny towns made of cardboard and paint, and even a fake river to cross over via a swinging bridge.
As I grew older I began to appreciate real trains. I remember a really old train I rode with my grandparents, somewhere in rural Massachusetts one summer, when we were visiting my aunt – the seats were reversible, and there was a water fountain in the back of each car with a dispenser of paper drinking cones, and we were practically the only people on it. I was under ten, and to my young self, that ride was as magical as the Hogwarts Express.
And then there was the Georgetown Loop – a narrow gauge railroad in Colorado. We lived there when it opened as a tourist attraction in the 70’s and I loved to sit in the top of the caboose with my legs dangling over the side. (There’s a name for that seat, but I don’t remember it.)
Trains remain part of my life. I have some antique toy train cars in my writing room, and I have a model of the Hogwarts Express that is meant to go around my Christmas tree, but somehow never manages to do so (well, not in years). I’m not sure I’ll ever fall out of love with trains, but I’m equally certain I’ll always think their whistles sound like someone crying in the night.