Growing Up

Lughnasa                                        Waxing Harvest Moon

Mark’s (my brother) days here will end on September 16th provided the Saudi visa process works and it’s on track, though a track with a terminus very near his flight date.  He flies from Minneapolis to Chicago, Chicago to Amman, Jordan and onto Riyadh.

He will spend a few days in Riyadh in an orientation program for new teachers at the English Gate Academy after which he reports to his teaching post.  He asked for Hal’in, but his assignment is not yet certain.

We sat on the couch tonight, after having watched some TV, and did a favorite family thing, trading memories of when we were young, especially memories we did not share.

I told him of climbing up on a chair to find, to my dismay, a door knob above a shelf I could not see over at age 3 or 4.  It looked like a big eye looking back at me.

In the basement of the same place, an apartment building where I lived with Mom and Dad, there was a coal chute. (“Coal?” Mark asked, a bit wide eyed at this ancient heat source.) The coal room connected to the big pot-bellied furnace through an augur that would turn on whenever the thermostat called for more heat.  In other words unpredictably.

When I was down there with Mom while she did the laundry, I would play.  Until the coal augur came to life.  It was loud and came on with surprising swiftness.  The furnace would hiss as the new coal fed the fire.  Made me think of a dragon.

Mark remembered sleeping in Mom and Dad’s bedroom until he was 5 or so, then moving upstairs in our house on Canal Street.  When I went off to college, he took my corner room, the one with a window facing west and another facing south.  Out that west facing window, at midnight, a Nickle Plate train would rumble down the tracks, and sound its warning signal for the crossing on Monroe Street only two and a half blocks from our house.  Mark remembered the train, too.

I’m not sure why I recall this and I don’t know if it was true, but I believe the last steam engine in US pulled its train through our town, sounding its steam whistle every midnight.  Right there on Monroe Street.

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