The Switching Station

SMy grandparents lived near an overpass beneath which a half dozen pairs of railroad tracks form a train yard, a switching station. This is where cars hitch up from one route to another, one engine to another.

It is a relatively quiet dance given the massive amounts of metal being shoved around. When the small town traffic and the highway noise reach a low, the steel wheels and rails sing. This became a lullaby of my childhood to which I fought sleep.

I returned at a point in my life when insomnia and had taken over my nights while confusion and sadness were starving me, literally. In three and a half weeks I had lost 32 pounds and could no longer keep water in my stomach. I didn’t feel and I didn’t care.

The first night, sleep wouldn’t come. I sat on the cement steps my grandfather had poured years before I was born; I fretted. I felt hollow of body and spirit. I felt a calm come on. It took some time to recognize the haunting lullaby still sings.

I slept.

The morning brought familiar smells and tastes at the table in my grandparents’ one-person kitchen. I ate some. During the day I ate the morning’s refrigerated ham between a room temperature biscuit. I sipped Southern sweet iced tea my grandmother kept refrigerated in what was once a one-gallon, glass pickle jar.

By the time I boarded the flight to Portland, Oregon, I felt physical relief. I was unsure what might have happened while I was in California. Sleep and time away helped me hold to the calming lullaby of the switching station.

Three children, my father lost to cancer left the two siblings. Eight grandchildren, one memorialized, and then great grandchildren. After 50 years of Grandma and Grandpa’s, we all mourned the day their home sold and they moved to another house.

Gone the scent of an old King James Bible read aloud in my grandmother’s cadence; the bounty of the garden my grandfather kept watered and weeded; the sight of their neat rows of multicolored canning jars on shelves beside his steel coffee cans filled with nuts, bolts and the aroma of WD-40.

The two-lane highway we used to cross to get to church three times a week is now two in each direction with the center turning lane bringing the count to five. Traffic never reaches a low.

I’m certain the wheels and rails still sing in the din.

©2014 Sandra R. Davidson

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