As I grow older, I find certain childhood memories tend to pop into my mind. Sometimes they center around holidays or vacations, but recently I've been thinking about homes--where I grew up, where I am now, and all those in between. I've also noticed a common thread that seems to link many of them together--trains.
I grew up in Carmel, Indiana. The Monon Railroad (now defunct) tracks were a half mile away from my house. On nice spring and autumn nights, I would lay in bed and listen for the train. If it was really still, I could hear its whistle blowing for the small town of Nora just south of us, then 91st Street, then 96th, and finally, the one closest to our house at 106th. It would rumble and roll, so I often didn't hear the lowing call to beware, a train was approaching for those crossings further north. This usually occurred sometime around midnight. As soon as it was once again quiet, I could go to sleep.
As the years passed, I entered high school, college, and then got married. The train didn't seem so important anymore.
Then my husband and I moved to Germantown, Tennessee, in 1985. We bought a house perfect for our two boys. The Norfolk & Southern Railroad tracks were three blocks to the north. Our bedroom windows faced that direction. The sound of the locomotive and its whistle brought back those childhood memories. Now, the Norfolk & Southern was a much busier rail line than the Monon, but somehow the blaring warning never bothered me. It felt like home.
We relocated several times, but no railroad tracks played into our house selections until we moved to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The CSX tracks were six blocks away. Trust me when I say that this was a more well-traveled line than any before. Trains ran all day and night. In fact, I could usually time the train whistles beginning around two in the morning. They rolled on by about every sixty to ninety minutes. And of course, during the daytime it was mandatory that I'd get hung up at a crossing. Yet, at night, I loved hearing them.
As fate would have it, when we moved back to Germantown last summer, we bought a house about a mile south of the good, old Norfolk & Southern. I often am awake in the middle of the night--all those plot twists and that scintillating dialogue running through my head--when a train or two rumbles by.
I don't know if I did this consciously or not, but in my latest release, The Murder of Grace Bryant, I used a train whistle as the catalyst for my heroine to return to her childhood home and find her mother's killer. The train whistle is one of her good memories. It has a running thread throughout the book that lends comfort to a woman tortured with partial amnesia about a horrible tragedy.
But then, I guess many childhood memories are based in comfort.
That's all for this month. I hope you enjoy reading this and that it brings back a few good memories for you, too.
See you next month.