family · history · Living

Elusive Memories

Memories can be elusive, like trying to reach and get that little spec of something floating in your water.  Sometimes no matter how much you try to finger it out, it shifts out of the way, circling around rejecting all attempts to pull it out.  Then sometimes it really doesn’t seem to matter, and I pull it out without effort.  I have memories that are forever burned into my memory.  They are historically significant, life defining, or tragic.  Even years later, I can recall everything.

Some are lost to time, lurking in the ether of our minds, only to surface unexpectedly.  A scent, look, or feeling coming out of the blue, and a moment in time is experienced once again.  There are scientific reasons and theories for these events, but I don’t begin to understand the nature of them.  Only that they happen, and when I realize a distant memory from my past, I cherish it as best I can.

I find that when in time of peaceful moments (reading, those moments as we enter sleep and wake up, studying, or simply just watching the birds and squirrels in the back yard), I can recall fleeting moments from childhood.  While it’s good to be productive and live actively, take some time to relish in the quiet moments as well. 

One happened just the other day when I was reading an article in Trains Magazine.  As with most children, when they first see a big locomotive, it leaves an impression.  Over the years, I’ve grown to really love trains in general, but really love old steam locomotives.  The billowing smoke, the droning whistles, and the rhythmic churning of the engines (leaving little question of why so many musicians featured train rhythms in the beat and lyrics) all spark the imagination.  They seem like living, breathing behemoths.  Marvels of technology of their day, and still are a sight to behold when seeing one still operating.

The article features 4-6-2 (4 leading wheels, 6 couple driving wheels, and 2 trailing) Light Pacific steam locomotives built by the American Locomotive Company back in the 1920s.  Two featured in the story the Florida East Coast Railroad No. 113 and No. 153, which ran short trips for the Gold Coast Railroad Museum for years. 

A memory came roaring back.  I remember heading to the Delray Beach train station probably in the late 1970s to catch one of these on a run up from Miami.  I remembered the approaching smoke and feeling the building excitement.  Then the whooshing of the steam and the rhythmic rumbles as it went past.  I’m not sure if the ones featured in the magazine article was the locomotive we saw, but I like to think it was.  I haven’t given this much thought in a long time and feel that I gained priceless feeling from the past, and another treasured memory of my mom. 

Other memories from the train station have surfaced again after reading.  Looking at our old neighborhood in Delray Beach, it wasn’t too far from the old train station.  I can now recall placing pennies on the tracks and searching for them after a train rumbled past.  I wish I still had some of these oblong pennies now.  But feel like I gained something new from the distant past. 

In those quiet times in your life, when your mind begins to drift and wander, let it go.  Sometimes you catch an elusive memory, only to realize how vivid it is, even after many years.  And when you see a rumbling freight training coming up the tracks, leave a few coins on the track and get a little souvenir for a bargain.  Best of all, you may get a priceless memory for the years to come. 

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