Trains of Thought

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Samantha Moore (’20) is from Warren, PA

For our February 2019 edition, we asked our lovely writers and artists to send in their poems, short stories, and artwork that relate to the people who have influenced their lives. One of our favorite submissions was a short story that came from Samantha Moore, a junior majoring in English and Writing, while also minoring in Art and Communications.

Samantha’s story is one of loss and memory as she recalls time spent with her grandfather, and the memories associated with it. Regarding her short story, she says:

I lost my grandfather this past summer and I wanted to write a piece that honored the man he was to me and my family. He lived a long life that was both full of light but shadowed. He was complicated, as all humans are, and I wanted it to be reflected in my story. I wanted people to see he was so much more than a grandfather, but a man, a person with a full story that would not be forgotten.

Although Samantha’s story was too long for us to publish in our physical edition, you can read the story in its entirety here:

 

“Preserved Memories”

He was a sad old man. One who still cracked jokes, but not as often as he used to. When she was alive, he’d had a reason to laugh. At least, that’s what they tell me. They tell me that both of them, together, made everything a little brighter in the world. I can’t remember when they were there, together. I don’t remember her – I was only two.

I remember when he gave us coal at Christmas. He worked on the railroad and he liked practical jokes, so naturally, the gift would be given. He worked on the railroad and trains were his obsession. He collected memorabilia: whistles, lights, lanterns, coal, jackets – anything with the Chessie Railroad’s logo of the cat on it. When he rode the trains, he felt alive. The engine was in time with the beat of his heart. And when the train stopped along the way, he would climb down and pick berries for my grandmother and father. I don’t remember this myself – I wasn’t alive yet.

He used to grow tomatoes alongside his house. They would be canned, and he would hand us jars each time we visited. My mother would put them in our spaghetti sauces, and nothing tasted better. I remember the cellar, where those jars and food were gathered and stored, even long after some of it was expired. My parents told me he hoarded because he worried. He was allowed to worry because he lived alone, and he grew up in a time where they had nothing. I wouldn’t remember this – I wasn’t born the day after the stock market crashed, like he was.

On his front porch, there was a swing built for three. He never sat on it, but we did, I, my siblings, and my parents. And he would sit in his chair, his tank top stretched and his skin turning leather brown as the summer days passed. He didn’t talk much as he sat there; he just watched the world go by on 32ndstreet. I can’t remember the last time we sat on that porch together, just my grandfather and me. At the time, it didn’t seem noteworthy, so it’s faded into all the other memories.

I do remember sitting on the front porch of our house. It was August, and I knew this would be the last time he was at our house. The three-hour drive between us and Cleveland was too much for him. He was old, and the strokes had taken a toll on him; it seemed his dementia was catching up with him. I helped him move from the house to the porch. His skin was warm and soft as he leaned into me; our feet fell on the warm wooden floor, slow and even paces. He sat in his rocker chair and I sat in mine. He dozed off and on, with the sun on his face, and I watched him. I’ll never forget that week when he visited.

The canned tomatoes are gone and, in our garage, sits a box of train memorabilia. In my closet, a jacket with the Chessie cat, never worn, but with my grandmother’s name embroidered over the breast pocket. The coal was used, for snowmen, long ago. We drove away from his house on 32ndStreet in June and I don’t know when I’ll be back – if I’ll ever be back.

 

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