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The 6am Train

January 24, 2008

Sometimes you read something and it brings back a rush of memories. At least that’s the way it is for me. My memory seems to have little file folders where it chooses to store little blocks of time, recorded in full High Definition, to be recalled when it chooses.  And for one reason or another, at any given time, I can be transported to a seemingly insignificant moment. And I’m there, in my mind I am there, with all the senses alive.

I was lying in bed the other day all warm and snug. The alarm had just gone off, it was 5:30am. Kelly was still sleeping, and I was trying to slowly wake myself up. As I do most mornings, I reached for my Palm and logged on to read e-mail and check a few blogs for new posts. Jumping over to Kelly’s blog from mine, I realised she had posted while I was at my board meeting the night before and I hadn’t read it yet. It was her post about the morning snow and the train and the music. Her writing, as I’m sure you will all agree, is wonderful. The beautiful images she paints with her words carry you off into your imagination. But on that day, as I lay there with just the light of my little handheld glowing in the dark room, I was sent somewhere completely different.

When I was 6 years old, my family doctor transferred me to a specialist in Toronto. My case was too complex for them here in Windsor. Even for the doctors in London. No, I would need to go to Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. World renowned they were. They will be able to help me. And so it began. For the next twelve years, at least every six months, and usually more often, my parents and I would make to trip to Toronto to see the specialists. I don’t know how my father did it. We had an old 1969 Plymouth Satellite (I LOVED that car!!) and he would drive the 4 hours there, spend 3 hours or so running around the clinics and x-ray rooms with me and my mom, and then drive 4 hours home.

A gruelling day for sure, and after a few scary weather related experiences, we decided that it was best to take the train in the winter months.

Kelly’s blog post transported me back 33 years to the train. The little file folder in my head opened up and I was there, sitting on the edge of the seat, staring out the window. It’s winter. I’m 7 years old. We’ve been on the train now for about an hour and a half, having left Windsor at 6am. The train is warm but there is a cool air drifting in from somewhere, not sure where. It’s an older train car, with colourful checker seats and grey painted metal armrests with little ashtrays in them. I flick the little lid open and closed over and over till my mom gives me that look. I’m restless, I can feel it. I want to run around the train but mom said I should sit and read, the other passengers might be sleeping. It’s been dark since we left Windsor. The light in the train car caused everything to reflect back at me. The only way I could see out was to press my face against the glass and shield my eyes with my hands. The glass would fog up quickly and the metal trim was cold on my chin. I exhaled heavily and drew happy faces on the fogged up glass, imagining that first car in line at the next crossing might enjoy my art. The train is moving fast now. We are in the country, with only farm fields surrounding us. The outside has become more and more bright, and now the sun is popping up on the horizon, filling the sky with gold and red. Now I can see! Up close, fence posts and telephone poles are whizzing past my window. I can feel the train rocking at bit and we go through another crossing. I knew it was coming, I had heard the “ding ding ding” of the signal get closer and then it faded off behind us. There is snow on the field, and just beyond the fence I can see snowmobile tracks. I decide they must have been circling the field. We’re getting close to London now. Half way there. I grab Curious George and slump down in my seat. I’m scared.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 25, 2008 5:53 pm

    Yes, Kelly writes beautifully, but SO DO YOU! My heart goes out to that little boy you introduced us to. All those many, many too many trips by car and then by train to the Specialists! That fear. What were they going to do to him this time?
    Oy. I could cry for him. I hope you did get to run around the train sometimes. Was this long before you were in a chair? Keep writing Sylvain, please. You do paint pictures with your words. You do touch hearts.

  2. January 26, 2008 1:10 am

    For a moment, I was inside that 7 year old boy, seeing and feeling it all.

  3. January 26, 2008 8:23 pm

    I feel for that little boy, Syl. Remember to offer him all the assurance you can that it will all work out fine. After all, it is alright today, and the little boy who is inside you will be glad to hear it.

    It’s a particular challenge for guys, I think. Not that it is easy for anyone to remember to console and cradle in our arms that little kid inside each of us, but my sense of it is that women are better able to handle the task. Guys don’t have the mom gene.

    I remember doing a therapy session years ago which involved delving inside and seeking out the child, and it brought me to tears in finally paying attention to the neglected aspect of myself. We both were crying! (the inner child and me) What a healing experience that was.

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