Getting Caught By A Train
My Ma-ma Lehman was a very smart woman, but as with many women who were born at the turn of the century (that would be the twentieth century), she never learned to drive. Therefore, Pa-pa Lehman had to drive her everywhere.
I spent most of my summers at their house during the day while my parents worked, so I would accompany them to the grocery store, to the doctor’s office, or to visit relatives.
Back in those days, freight trains were used even more so than now to ship goods, & several active tracks went through Meridian Street in downtown Huntsville. Often, we would “get caught” by a train, meaning that we would have to halt our journey while waiting for the train to pass.
Impatient, even as a child, I hated delays, but my Ma-ma had a knack with kids, & was quite an entertainer, so she found ways to keep me occupied while we waited. Most often, we would count the cars on the train as it passed. But if it was an exceptionally long train, that could mean up to 200 cars, & sometimes we would lose count. Then she would tell jokes, make up rhymes, or recount one of her many stories about life growing up on a farm in Big Cove. Pa-pa was a quiet, calm soul, so he would often just listen, blowing occasional puffs of smoke from his hand rolled cigarette out of the window. But every once in awhile, he would sing little ditty, such as the Animal Fair to us.
On sweltering summer days in North Alabama, I could not wait to get out of that car. I cannot remember whether or not it had air conditioning – just that we did not use it, & it got really, really miserably hot sitting there on the asphalt waiting for the train to pass. I think it probably had air conditioning, but there were Gasoline Wars, oil embargoes, & things that made Pa-pa very conscious of saving gas – that much I do remember.
Depending upon the weather, my mood, & our intended destination, some days I was more patient than others. But always, I longed for that train to pass so I could get out of the car & gain the freedom I longed for – to run, play hide & seek, feel the wind rush full force on my face as I rode my bike down the hill, or escape into a good book. Back then books were valuable treasures, so you did not take them out running errands.
Oh, how exciting it was to see that little red caboose, the last car in the train, approaching! That meant that we were about to start moving forward again, & soon would feel fresh air pouring in as we moved closer to our intended destination. (Although since I was just a little girl, I did not always have a full understanding as to exactly where we were headed. All that I knew is that I was told to go get in the car, so obediently, I did so, knowing that they would never take me any place that was bad.)
When you encountered a train, the only option was to wait. They were too long to go around. Looking back, I now treasure those times spent with my grandparents in waiting more than escaping into one of those books. It was almost like forced family time. Not that we did not ever spend time together other than that. But you know what I mean – in this fast paced society in which we live, we are at times too busy to carve out time for storytelling, singing children’s songs & such.
Perhaps subconsciously I was thinking about waiting on the trains as I raised my own two children, for whenever my kids & I would “get caught” by a real or figurative train, I always tried to make the best of our waiting times. At doctor’s offices, I would read books quietly to them over to the side. Waiting for ball games to start, I would tell them stories. Waiting in a check out line, we would “People Watch.” Whenever we had to wait, I would talk to them, & sometimes try to just get them to open up about their lives, thoughts, and feelings.
Unfortunately, I am still impatient though. In my own life, when I have no choice but to stop & wait on events to unfold, I get frustrated. I feel helpless when my only choice is to wait. I sometimes get discouraged when I cannot get around that train to keep my journey on track. But that is the thing – a delay does not mean that you will never arrive, only that you will be a little later than you had planned.
Life continues to send me delays. And that is when I hear Him speak. He makes me laugh at myself, sends me friends to occupy my mind, & draws me into a closer relationship with Him as I listen to others tell me stories about Him. Kind of like Ma-am & Pa-pa Lehman helped me wait, all those many years ago.
Perhaps your destination is set. You know that you are on the right path. But suddenly, you get caught by a train! You have no choice but to sit still and wait. Use that time wisely.
Get to know Him better, for He waits with you. Listen to what He is trying to tell you. Let your soul sing along with Him. If you do those things,then the time will seem to pass more quickly, & you will feel happiness in the waiting time, even if it is uncomfortable.
Perhaps one day, like me, you will look back & realize that those waiting times were not in vain, & that they left a lasting impression on you. Is there someone who needs your help as they wait for something to pass today?
I thank God for my friends that have helped me through my waiting times as an adult. I think I see the little red caboose just up ahead. Soon, very soon, it will be full speed ahead, & I cannot wait to see where He is taking me!
“I wait for the Lord,
My soul waits,
And in His word
I do hope.” – Psalm 130:5
– Lou Lehman Sams