The Train

Sitting here, I heard the sound of a train rolling by. I heard it off in the distance a couple times before, but the blaring horn and clickity-clack of the metal wheels following tracks was much louder tonight than it was before. I don’t actually know where the train tracks are as I have not stumbled upon them yet, but I was glad to hear the train and remembered this story I told my mother once.

I discovered that I enjoyed the sound of distant trains–especially at night as I am falling asleep. It is comforting to me. Every place that I have lived (minus one) has had train tracks nearby. The tracks near the house I grew up in were so close, the house rattled when the train rolled by. It was very loud–and long–but it never bothered me. I don’t think it bothered any of us because we had grown accustomed to it.

When I went away to college, some people would complain about the train near the school. Of course, I didn’t mind it and actually enjoyed it, but I didn’t know why. One bachelors degree and two apartments later, I decided to move closer to work. The area was nice, I enjoyed my new-found independence, but I did not feel at home there. It was a short-lived excursion to a new land, and it was time to go back “home.” But, where is home? Home is where the train is.

I discovered what it was with me and trains. Home is a place where you [should] find refuge, safety, and love. Every place that I called home just so happened to have a train nearby. Somehow, subconsciously, the train had become symbolic of home. Coincidentally (or not), the apartment near work did not have a nearby train.

Whether I concocted this theory in a fit of creativity, or there is truth to it, everyone has something in their lives that remind them of home. Sounds and smells are powerful triggers for memories, and with this being the holiday season, the time is ripe for making new memories and recalling old ones. Whether you return to your place of refuge, work, or do nothing at all this season, be sure to take the time out to share love with those whom you care about the most. You never know what role you play in the production of someone else’s life. You could play a supporting role, be an extra, or maybe even just be part of the set–like a train. Whatever your role is, play it well. Memories are available for the taking. Make some with your family and friends this season while you have the chance.

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My Missing Middle Name

I’m not sure how you grew up, but back in the 80’s, when I was very young, parents made their children write their names, addresses, and phone numbers a thousand times.  This was more than just a writing and learning exercise; It was a rite of passage–a sign that you were no longer a baby.  This exercise served two purposes:  1. so the kids would actually learn to spell their name correctly and learn their address and phone number, and 2. to practice writing.  This was usually done some time after learning to tie shoelaces, but before the end of kindergarten.  I wrote “Jessica Grace Brown” a million times.  That exercise ingrained in my brain that this was my name.  Some kids didn’t like their names and went by nicknames or some other name.  I didn’t really care.  I had a name, and it was mine…at least I thought so.

As I got older, I started to notice some stuff.  Things didn’t really add up.  After all, what is a middle name for if no one recognizes it any way?  Some time during the first half of my senior year I decided that I needed some answers.  I went to the source.

“How come my middle name doesn’t come on anything?”  I asked.

My mother replied, “What do you mean?”

“Everyone else has their full name on their report cards and things except me.  My stuff just says Jessica Brown.”

Without missing a beat, and so casual, she bestowed upon me the answer to my quandary.

“Oh.  That’s because you don’t have a middle name.”

WHAT?!

That was not the answer I was expecting!  I wanted some long, technical answer that started with “Long ago and far away…,” involved monks who built a special computer deep in the alps, and ended with “…and that is why your middle doesn’t show.”  I felt like she ripped out part of my identity.  I didn’t know who I was any more.  I was angry and felt like I had been betrayed.  How could they not tell me this?  What was up with writing “Jessica Grace Brown” a million times?  Who am I??  She said something about when I was born they only had one name picked out, and when they finally selected a middle name they already had the birth certificate and it was going to cost money to get it changed.  At the time I thought that was the most lame excuse of all lame excuses.  It of course makes sense now.  I wanted to give myself a name just to spite my parents, but of course, it does cost money to do that.

Months later at our class ring ceremony all of those feelings resurfaced when I saw that I would be haunted by this my entire life.  Before I confronted my mother, I had already designed my class ring.  I opted to have my signature engraved on the inside of the band.  I signed my whole name.  So, while my classmates were celebrating a milestone, I stood there in anguish, staring this stranger’s ring.  I thought, “This person doesn’t even exist.”

My Most Memorable Birthday

Frank Gehry Wedding Cake

My most memorable birthday was my 20th. I dont know what it is about me an odd numbered ages, but I tend to enjoy them more. I think they have a nicer, sassier ring to them. On top of that, 20 just seemed like a really huge number and had so many meanings. I was no longer a teenager. In a year, Id be considered a “legal” adult. My “youth” was over. Needless to say, I was bummed. To make matters worse, I was alone. I was living on campus at the time, and my good friend–my only friend on campus–had decided to attend school back in our hometown. My parents were not coming to visit that year, and so I had no one to celebrate with.  I didn’t even have a car to take myself some place.  I decided to just skip this birthday. However, I had made another friend a few months back.  His name was Aaron.  He says that we originally met at a party, but I honestly did not remember him–and NOT because I partied hard. We reconnected on whatever the hot social networking site was at the time. He was a totally awesome guy who had morals, operated on spiritual principles, and was great to talk to. We talked ALL the time for hours on end about EVERYTHING. The greatest thing about it was that neither of us were trying to get with the other in a romantic way.  This was one of the few truly platonic friendships I have ever had.

A week before my birthday Aaron and I were talking one night, and I just happened to mention that my birthday was coming up and I was not excited about it. He could not understand how someone would not be excited to celebrate another year of life.  He gave me a friendly lecture, but I still was not feeling it. When he finally recognized that I was truly bummed, he told me not to make any plans for Saturday (my birthday) and keep the whole day open. I was not going to make plans anyway, but I was forewarned in case anyone else wanted to make plans for me.  My only instructions was to meet him at the mall at the appointed time. True, the mall isn’t huge, but “the mall” is a tad bit vague to be meeting someone you have never met–well, at least I don’t recall meeting him.  He did tell me what he would be wearing–a sweater, jeans, and Timberlands–but that description was very vague too. But, I hopped on the bus anyway and headed to the mall to find him. I waited and watched in the food court for a little while and did not find him. I decided that I needed to search for him. I had only known him for about two months, but I had learned a lot about him in that short time. If I were Aaron where would I be, I thought.  I mulled it over for a little while and I decided that I should head toward the bookstore.   I found a B. Dalton bookstore, and there he was!

“I was waiting to see if you would find me here,” he said with a touch of pride in his voice.

Before that day, I didn’t know that he did not have a car.  Needless to say, I was very shocked to find out that we would spend the whole day traveling via bus and train to various places around the Metro Atlanta area.  The first adventure was bowling.  He remembered from one of our conversations that I liked to bowl. We threw the ball down the lane a few times as he talked about how he enjoyed being a Marine.  After we had enough bowling, we started making our way to the next destination.  While waiting for the bus, he handed me a box wrapped in red paper. At the time, red was my favorite color. I slowly unwrapped the box trying to imagine what was inside and why he bought me a gift. It was a bottle of my favorite perfume! I was very shocked that he remembered because that was a very random detail of another random conversation we had.

One of our ports of call was the West End.  He showed me around Morehouse College.  That is where he was attending school.  Our next destination was Buckhead.  This was the longest of all the train rides of the day, so he used this time to toy with my emotions.  As I was taking in the scenery, he handed me a blue box.  Not a Tiffany blue box, but a blue box nonetheless.  Every woman knows what is inside of a blue box, and I was starting to get really nervous.  It was a long, navy blue box, and I did not know what to make of it.  I thought, He’s buying me jewelry?  Why is he buying me jewelry??  Does this dude like me?!  I did not want to jump to conclusions, but it was all very strange.  It’s not that a guy who has a friend who is a girl cannot buy her jewelry.  But, for the girl’s sake, the jewelry should not come in blue box.  It makes the girl we feel the same way that some guy’s girlfriend does when he decides to kneel down and tie his shoe during a critical part of the conversation.  The girl has a mild heart attack.  Aaron saw that I was struggling with the decision to open the box and he asked me if I was going to.  I opened it, and there were two big 15-stick packs of my favorite gum.  To be honest, it was a little strange, but I thought it was very cute.  Just as I was feeling relieved that it was acutally not jewelry, he threw another blue box into my lap.  I was less nervous this time, but still a little confused.  However, I opened it and there were four little 5-stick packs of my favorite gum.  I thought it was funny but still cute.  He handed me another box, and before I could get that one open, he handed me another box, and another, and another!  I just laughed.  I think he gave me about eight boxes, and they were all filled with my favorite gum.  I ended up with 20 packs–one for each year of my life!  For someone who is an extreme gum enthusiast (I coined the word gumaholic), this was one of the best gifts I had ever received.  After the blue box episode, we got off the train and went to what he heard was Atlanta’s best Chinese restaurant.  He had never eaten there, but he thought I might enjoy it because I absolutely love Chinese food.  For the record, I would not have said it was the best in Atlanta, but it was the company that I was enjoying.

The night ended with a visit to a newspaper store in Buckhead. I do not care for newspapers too much, but I suppose we had to do something he liked
for once.   The sun had dipped into the horizon, and the moon had since made its debut.  Being unfamiliar with public transit, Aaron accompanied me back to the mall so I could go back to school. He gave me one last gift:  a birthday card. This was the one he didn’t want me to open.  He instructed me to read it when I got back.  I told him that I had a great time and that this was the best birthday I had ever had.  We said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.  I made haste to my dorm room with a smile on my face.  It was refreshing to know that is was possible to spend time with a guy without there being certain expectations at the end of the night.  I plopped down on the bed and opened the card.  It was cream colored with embossed flowers and gold script.  The message inside said:

When the celebrating is finally done,

when the sun is slowly setting

and the day is getting still and quiet,

may you have one last small gift–

a happy feeling that you

have a special place in

the hearts of many people.

Happy Birthday

I actually still have that card! I was totally overwhelmed. I just could not believe that someone whom I barely knew would do all of that  just so I would have a good day.  The best part was it showed that he was listening to everything I said when we talked.  I appreciate it when people listen.  It shows that they care.  Normally I would consider myself to be a superb listener, but he has me beat–hands down!  As far as the gifts went, people may think that they were small and insignificant, but they meant a lot to me.  The simple things are some times the best things because they have the most meaning attached to them.  I sat in my room for a few minutes just taking everything in and replaying the day’s events in my head.  I decided that this was the best birthday ever.

I hate to interrupt this beautiful story, but, although the birthday story is over, the story isn’t over.

It was January, and I had only been in Atlanta for one winter.  I was wearing jeans, a short-sleeved shirt, and a wind breaker.  Coming from August, GA, I thought my outfit would work, but I soon discovered that it did not.  I cannot say that I actually felt cold during that day, but I definitely wished that I had on a heavier jacket walking back to the dorm that night.   Two days later I woke up at 5:00, and I was wide awake. I was not, still not, and will probably never be a morning person.  I did not know what to do with myself.  I had never been so alert so early in the morning.  I tried to go back to sleep, but I wasn’t able to.  I started watching TV hoping to get sleepy, but even after two hours it was of no use. I felt weird. Even ’til this very day I cannot explain how I felt. I didn’t feel bad, but I didn’t feel good either.  The feeling coupled with being up extremely early, I decided that something was not right.  I got up and went to the nurses office.  I had a relationship with her because I came once a week to give myself allergy injections in the afternoon. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that she was extremely surprised and a little concerned to see me so early.  It was about 7 a.m. then.  I told her I felt weird, and she said I didn’t look good. She took my temperature, and although I do not recall what the number was, I recall her being alarmed and telling me to see a doctor. I told her I didn’t have a doctor or a car, so she called the campus police to take me to the nearest urgent care facility. I let the doctor look at me, and I came out with more than I had bargained for.  I left that facility with a diagnosis of bronchitis and a doctor’s note telling me I had to stay in bed for an entire week.  A week?  I thought, I  have to miss a whole week of school?  Oh, this really IS the best birthday ever!

What is YOUR most memorable birthday?

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My Earliest Memories

Blow Your Mind

My memory goes back all the way to two years old! I don’t know too many people who can remember that far back. I can only remember specific things though. It’s kinda like remembering a movie you saw along time ago and you only remember a few scenes. I remember the day my parents brought my sister home from the hospital. Granny was watching my brother and I, and I was excited that they were coming back. I heard the car pull up, and I went to the window to make sure it was them, and it was! My mom was carrying this newcomer, and I hadn’t decided how I felt yet. My world was already complete. My parents were my buds, and my brother was my BFF! Another memory I have from that year was that I was always curious about her. I would be wondering what she was up to, so I’d get out of bed, go to her room, and peer into her crib. She would always be awake so I’d run back to my room lol. The only other memory have from back then is one time in my parent’s room, I think my mom was doing my hair or something. She had my sister in there laying on the bed with us. She needed to be fed, and I asked my mom if I could do it.

My memory is excellent; at least it has been up until the last few years. I remember EVERYTHING! If I met you ten years ago, today I would still be able to tell you how we met, what you said to me, probably even what you were wearing. Usually I remember stuff that people say for years, but lately that hasn’t been the case. I almost never forget a birthday, but I have forgotten several this year! SOO not like me! I forget where I’m supposed to be, don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing, and don’t know what day it is half the time!! I actually have an Outlook reminder at work so I can remember to leave and go to school everyday. I keep a calendar in my purse so I can see what I’m supposed to be doing. And the worst one–for me at least–is that I forget things that I say and I constantly repeat myself! If I told you something five years ago, I will remember it and tell you that you told me that already. And the thing about it is that I’ll be soo excited about it, and you’re just like, “…yeah…you already told us” LOL. I hate that!! I don’t know what’s going on with me, and I don’t like it. I’ve always prided myself on having such a great memory, and it is fading away–and don’t say it’s because I’m getting old!! I might not be 17 anymore, but I sure as heck am not 80! I don’t know. Maybe I’m just really stressed and don’t even know. Yall just pray for me!!

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