The Sounds of a Train In the Middle of the Night

Sometimes I have trouble sleeping at night.  I’ll lay awake in the middle of the night when everything is quiet and still, and my thoughts will run away with me.  Occasionally, I’ll hear the sounds of a train in the distance.  The sound of the train running on the tracks and the occasional whistle blowing far away.  These sounds, heard in the middle of the night, always trigger a very specific memory from my childhood.

Our senses often trigger memories.  Sometimes, they are good memories and sometimes they are memories that we wish we didn’t have.  For me, the sounds of a train in the distance in the middle of the night remind me of the times we visited my mother’s parents when I was a very young child.

I remember going to bed in a room with my siblings and laying there awake while everyone was sleeping and hearing the sounds of a train in the distance.  I don’t know why these sounds trigger this particular memory, but they do.  It’s not a bad memory, but there is nothing that I can remember that is significant about it either other than it was comforting and pleasant to lay in bed as a very young child and listen to the train in the distance in the middle of the night.

Here is a picture of my mother and her mother from Christmas 1960.  She would have been 68 in this picture.

Here is a picture of my mother’s father from 1957.  He would have been 66 in this picture.

They lived in a house in Princeton, Illinois, during the years that I was a young child, but they were both from Galesburg, Illinois, originally.

I remember my grandmother preparing breakfast in this house.  She always made fried eggs in an old, black, cast iron skillet.  My father would make fun of them because they were always crispy around the edges.

My grandparents were poor farmers who had 10 children.  But, by the time we came around, they lived in town.  My grandfather had horses and was involved in harness racing which is a form of horse racing where the horse trots while pulling a rider in a two-wheeled cart called a sulkie.  I remember that he would take us to see the horses so we could watch them practice.  I always thought harness racing looked kind of goofy.

Going to see the horses with my grandfather was a good memory.  Other than that, we pretty much stayed away from him.  He was very scary and, from what I remember, cantakerous and mean.  He always looked as scary as he does in the picture that I have of him from 1957.  He always had a scowl on his face and never seemed happy.

I don’t remember much about my grandmother other than her cooking in her house in Princeton and, later, in her house in Aledo, Illinois, which is where she got sick and eventually died.

My grandparents had two, very large rocking chairs.  I probably remember them as being large because I was so young and so small.  I do remember that NO ONE was allowed to sit in them.  We always sat on the aqua blue couch with the nubby fabric.  I loved rubbing my hand over it and can still feel the texture against my skin.

The nubby couch and the sounds of a train in the middle of the night remind me of my mother’s parents, my grandparents.

Sensory memory triggers – interesting.

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9 Responses to The Sounds of a Train In the Middle of the Night

  1. Pingback: My Maternal Grandparents | Mama's Empty Nest

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