When I was young and considerably more impressionable than I am now (well, OK, maybe that’s not entirely true … I still have my gullible moments — come to think if it, probably more than I should admit) I used to ride on trains. I traveled up and down the west coast, visiting family, sometimes going to and from track meets when it was more economical to take Amtrak than fly. And to this day, some of my fondest memories are from those hours spent on railroad tracks …
Inside a sleeping car on the way to San Francisco, watching my mother pull down a bed from the wall — I mean who’d ever heard of such a thing … Walking from one car to the next, amazed that I didn’t fall to the ground below while passing over the connections … Observing the fast “moving” landscape from my window in the dining car. (I always expected to see an Indian.) … And talking, on the way back from the Stanford Invitational, most of the night to an older black gentleman seated next to me.
I was seventeen. He could’ve been sixty, could’ve been eighty. I doubt I asked. But it didn’t matter. He asked me about my running, what I wanted to do when I got older, what my college plans were, about my family … and oddly enough, he seemed generally interested. Not something I would have expected. I mean why would a complete stranger, with a completely different life give a crap about me? And he seemed, at least for the hours we spent together on that train, like a long-lost uncle or — don’t laugh — like a fairy godmother of sorts. Of course he was a man, so he couldn’t have been a fairy grandmother — at least not the kind that I was used to seeing in movies like Cinderella. But during those ten plus hours he didn’t just talk to me, he listened. And he told me about his life. Told me stories and took me under his wing and helped make this one time seventeen-year old girl traveling alone forget that she was alone.
I never knew the man’s name. But I remember his face. And I remember he had a leather suitcase. And I remember that he was kind. I’m doubtful that I ever ran across him again during my life, but every now and then, especially when I think about trains and I think about the kindness of strangers, I am reminded that we live in a great big world filled with lovely people — lovely, interesting people whose stories can turn a dark night on a fast moving train into something to remember, and something to cherish.
Today’s post inspired by The Daily One-word Prompt: Suitcase. And yes, this is a re-post from a few months back … but I couldn’t help myself. I remember his suitcase as if it sits in the back of my own closet … funny the things we remember, hu.