Let’s go home

going-home

At the end of any film that includes an epic adventure or even chaotic situation the line of dialogue is inevitably “Let’s go home..”  I’m ready to be there, but this experience has been one for the memory books.

It’s right at 9:00 a.m. and I’m sitting in the lounge car watching Georgia about to turn into Alabama. The temperature is rising and the view is more piney woods than rocky cliff walls. The train is pretty full and running just a little late thanks to freight traffic.

I have had 2 seat mates, neither of which are much to right home about. About 2 a.m. the second one moved to a back empty seat and left me with the empty seat next to me enabling me to spread out a little and sleep better. We should begin to empty out as we close in on New Orleans.

I’ve enjoyed writing during this trip and reading the comments as I go. I feel like I had a lot of company on this trip. It’s nice to know when people are reading your stuff and enjoying the story you’re telling. It’s been suggested that I wrap it up with a bit of a detailed log of everything I did on this journey. I suspect once I have some time to digest some of it I’ll do just that. For now I’ll just sit here and watch Alabama roll by my window. Y’all have a good day. We’ll talk soon.

 

Christmas in New York

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Christmas magic is alive and well in New York. This is very true. There are also 6 kabillion people that all want to see it. Thankfully, I have a wonderfully patient and willing family that were ready to face the masses on 5th Avenue so that I could experience all of it.

Monday afternoon Curt, Sellers, the boys, and I headed into the heart of Manhattan to the famed Radio City Music Hall for the Christmas Spectacular featuring the legendary Rockettes. This adventure held all of the experiences New York is know for…gridlock, huge crowds, even an argument between our cabbie and the one next to us. We eventually got out blocks ahead of our stop – just like in the movies – and began walking quickly thru the masses toward the Radio City marquis. Now, this is where the Southerner in me kicked in. I kept thinking walk on the right, say excuse me, please, thank you. Use all those manner mama taught you. Using that strategy you get nowhere fast in this city. Throw it all out the window and just barrel through the crowd, even if that means using your baby stroller to mow people over while someone else carries your child. (Actually saw this happening…) My goodness I’ve never seen anything like it.

We finally arrived and made our way to our seats inside the hall. Santa was already introducing the show and curtain raising on the line of well trained and perfectly in sync legs of the Rockettes. The next hour was magic with lights swirling and music swelling and children of all ages reinforcing their belief in Santa. fullsizerender

It was all very sugar plum sweet and playful with images of the north pole and Santa’s work shop and New York winter scenes evolving all around us. But, then the mood changed and to my surprise the next words were heard were the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke and the most complete and beautiful Nativity pageant I’ve ever seen. The orchestra swelled with “Hark the Herald Angels” and “Joy to the World”. It was truly spectacular and so moving that by the end of it my brother and I were both wiping away tears. Here we were, sitting in arguably one of the most secular cities in the country in just one of hundreds of audiences of the season, and the cast was reminding all who came to see the true meaning of the season. Simply stunning. fullsizerender_1

From the show we walked down to Sax Fifth Avenue and watched the light show on the side of the building and then up to Rockefeller Center to see the tree and the skating rink. We proceeded down 5th toward St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Tiffany’s, admiring the Avenue windows as we went. After a long but wonderful day we headed back to Chelsea and dinner and finally home for little boys to crawl in bed. Curt and I headed out with friends for a bit of sibling time on the town before heading home ourselves for a little sleep before waking up to celebrate Henry’s birthday today complete with Mickey Mouse waffles, IMAX/3D viewing of the new Star Wars movie, toy stores, and dinner.

It’s been a full and wonder-filled few days in this great city with my amazing family. I loved every second I’ve had with my sweet Grayton and Henry. These little men are my heart and leaving them is always painful.

Tomorrow begins the journey south and home. I am forever grateful for this experience. It will definitely be a Christmas I never forget.

 

 

 

 

Merry Christmas

nativity

Merry Christmas.

This New York day began rainy and gray but turned into mild and sunny before it was over. Jackets weren’t really needed and the air was crisp and cool and clean by the time the sun went down. Sellers made yummy cinnamon roles from scratch and we had them hot out of the oven while watching “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” with the boys. As the morning wore on the more prep was completed for the evening’s activities. Curt prepared to start his duties for the day and caught the train to his parish. Sellers and I and the boys attended the 3:00 p.m. family service at St. James Episcopal Church on the Upper East Side (I think…). St. James is a brilliantly beautiful church with a grand high altar, huge organ, and spectacular stone and tile work. This afternoon it all decked out for the day including cascading banks of poinsettias and tall candles attached to every pew. When the pipes rang out with “O Come All Ye Faithful” tears immediately filled my eyes. I love that sound. I love the smells. I love the liturgy. I love our Episcopal community. I have missed it so.

Later in the evening we ventured across the bridge to Brooklyn to the home of our friends Meghan and Shannon and their sweet baby girl Maggie Rose. We joined more friends, Lynn Jackson, Jesse Sturges, as well as Shannon’s mom. This is a friendship that stretched from the corners of Clermont and Carlen streets in Mobile all the way to Brooklyn. When they were kids, Jesse and Curt and Meg and Jessica were quite the foursome. They had a clear path thru the back yards and over the fences of neighbors between our two houses. Lynn is the other mom – the one who taught about Springsteen and driving a little quickly and top shelf margaritas. Raising the four of them was a group effort between Lynn and my parents. I was the older sister and they were just all under foot. Funny how age doesn’t seem to matter as life goes on. Since those days there have been multiple graduations, 3 weddings, 4 grandchildren, too many funerals and more laughter and love than can be expressed in words. Tonight, we were all together again over beef tenderloin, my mom’s corn pudding, good red wine, and and an abiding friendship.

Have I mentioned that this is the first Christmas in my 45 years that I’ve not spent with my parents? I think I took that harder than they did. Christmas Eve at the Kennington’s was an event. We had time to kill between church services and so that time turned into hours of friends and family and music and beautiful food. Tonight Jess and Philip are in New Orleans with Luc and I’m up here with this branch of our tree. They are probably tucked in bed and will sleep past 7 a.m. tomorrow morning – the traditional appropriate time for getting up with presents and stockings. The New Orleans bunch will arrive tomorrow afternoon and the house will be full of little boy energy again – sounds I know my parents will be ready for.

I hear a little drizzle outside at this hour. Grayton and Henry are sound asleep. Presents are ready. Bubbly is chilling in the fridge for tomorrow morning. We’ve been tracking Santa with NORAD all night so I know he’s close. Time for me to tuck in as well.

On this holy night, I wish all of you and those you love a very Merry Christmas of Happy Hanukkah. May your tomorrow be filled with the magic of the day, the sweet love of the Christ child, and the delight of children everywhere.

 

 

 

 

 

End of the line..for now

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We’re getting close and the train is definitely going faster than it has since we started. We’ve run into quite a bit of freight traffic that has put us about an hour behind schedule so I think our engineer is trying to make up time. A bit bumpy, but it’s pretty outside.

I’ve never been to Pennsylvania so the next leg will be new. I’m sitting in the lounge car on the right so maybe I’ll catch a glimpse of something important. We’ll be in Philly in about 35 minutes and then on to Trenton and Newark and finally we’ll pull into Penn Station.

Now I know that Penn Station no longer looks like the picture above. It’s new and modern and electronic and commercial and full of people in a hurry. But this trip is about magic and adventure so I went with a magical picture.

The train emptied out a good deal when we stopped in DC. The company has been good. Lots of families. Cute little ones passing the time with their books and snacks and gazing out the windows. My car has been a bit warm so the lounge has been a point of escape mainly for the difference in temperature.

I took a little break to give us time to get to Philly and we are currently pulling into the City of Brotherly Love. Passing the University of Pennsylvania on the left. I should be able to see City Hall when we exit – home of the Liberty Bell and the singing of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States – this is where is all began y’all. Wow.

The next hour is going to go pretty fast so I think I’ll sign off and try to freshen up a bit and be ready to tackle Penn Station and find my brother. The first half of my first train trip has been great.  If you have not done this I definitely recommend it.

Merry Christmas y’all. It’s about scoop up those boys and play with my family in the greatest city in the world. So long for now.

 

 

Historic trail

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Good morning. We just passed thru Culpepper, Virginia and this cemetery. Soldiers standing at attention. All dressed up for Christmas.

Sleep came a little slowly last night as we were stopping every half hour of so at smaller depots along the line. Finally sleepiness took over and I managed to get a few hours of rest. I’d love a shower – but that will need to wait.

The overnight stretch took us thru North and South Carolina and into Virginia, stopping at Lynchburg just prior to Culpepper. Lynchburg is not far from Appomattox where General Lee and General Grant called an end to the Civil War. We continue north to Manassas, which served as an important railway crossing during the civil war and the site of two battles, and Alexandria before arriving in Washington DC.

The view from my window began to roll with the Blue Ridge Mountains rising in the distance as we came into Charlottesville earlier this morning. I remember watching the Walton’s as a child and even today and know that Charlottesville was where John Boy and his family went into town to do big city work. I looked up at the top of some of those hills and imagined him and his brothers and sisters and their parents working the lumber mill or running to Ike’s store for some sugar. All of these things whether real life history or a childhood TV memory make the trip more personal and not just a means to an end.

Sitting in the lounge car this morning I had a long conversation with a delightful African American man just a year older than my father. We talked of travel, places he’d lived and jobs he’d had. We talked about race relations. We talked about God and family. We found many things we agreed on and had in common. When I told him there were 2 little boys waiting for me at the end of this trip he reached into his wallet and handed me two $2 bills to give to Grayton and Henry. One of them from 1976. The other from 2009 – the last year they were made. He said he’s been handing out $2 to various people he meets for the last 7 years. I have not seen one for a long time but I can’t wait to give them to the boys. What a sweet treasure.

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8 more stops. I’ll try to write a little more as we closer to the city. Merry Christmas Eve Eve,  y’all.

 

Night falls on the tracks

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We’re approaching Atlanta. It’s about 7:45 p.m. eastern time. I’m amazed at how quickly the last 12 hours have passed. I’ve ready, colored, grabbed a snack, watched a little Netflix, and witnessed the scenery change from the coast to rocky foothill. We’ve changed time zones.

We continue to pass thru small towns and countryside, dotted with closed storefronts and the lights shining in homes as people get home from work. Christmas lights are scattered although not as many as I would have thought. I’m on the left side of the train so my view may be somewhat limited by that as well.

I elected not to eat in the dining car but may do that on the way back. The lounge car is just behind mine so it’s simple to pick up a sandwich or a candy bar to fill that need. I do understand that the supper menu ranged from steak to chicken to spinach salad and is said to be quite good.

The car continues to be quiet. My seat mate has finally joined me – a young man who, like me, is a writer and lover of history. There are a couple of mother/daughter teams traveling together and there have been lots of giggles and silliness coming from the seats around me. The two older men in front of me – not traveling together but just sitting together – have engaged in fun and intelligent conversation as we’ve progressed. People of all races and places. All heading somewhere.

I think for the rest of the evening I will likely read and perhaps have a little dinner, and watch the darkness pass. We make several stops thru the night, arriving in Manassas, Virigina around 8:00 a.m., followed by Alexandria, and Washington DC around 9:30 a.m.

It’s been a gentle ride with pleasant people. I’m glad for that.

Goodnight from the rails just west of Atlanta.

 

 

 

All aboard!

The adventure has begun. My sweet brother in law delivered me to the Amtrak station in New Orleans a little after 6:00 this morning. After checking a bag I immediately got in the boarding line. Just after 7:00 a.m. the train pulled slowly pulled out of the station. No one yelled “all aboard” by the way – which is bit disappointing – but it’s a new day and I guess it’s more about scanning the ticket and making sure the luggage doesn’t weigh too much.

So far our stops have included Hattiesburg, Laurel, and Meridian, MS. The view from my left side window is of small Mississippi towns and woodlands. Next up is Tuscaloosa and then Birmingham where the train will begin to get a little more full.

How am I doing? I’m great. Much of my anxiety comes from being in unfamiliar spaces so once I was settled and underway I began to relax. The train never seems to be going any faster than I would drive – although I’m pretty sure it is – just a bit bumpy at times.

My car is next to the cafe car since walking on a moving train is a akin to those stairs at the fun house that shift as you attempt to maneuver them! I’ve enjoyed a turkey sub, chips, and a root beer and as my dad said earlier everything is more pleasant on a full stomach.

The coach seats are wide and offer ample leg room. There’s an extension that lifts up from under seat and a foot rest attached to the seat in front which makes stretching out easy. There is also quiet a bit of space between seats so when the seat is back you aren’t laying in your neighbor’s lap!

So, for now my scenery consists of things familiar. I’m looking forward to night fall when the Christmas lights will emerge along the countryside and the view from the windows begins to change.

I’ll sign off for now and touch in up to road. train-early