A rediscovered memory


It is common knowledge in my family that I don't remember much of my childhood. It's a running joke. Sometimes I think I was abducted by aliens and had my memory erased. The reality is that, growing up an Air Force Brat, we moved every few years and all the places I called home blurred into a mish-mash of small, military airbase homes.

I was born in Maine and have lived in Japan, South Carolina, Delaware, Michigan, Ohio, Alabama, Washington, D.C. and a bunch of other places.

But one vague memory has always been in the back of my mind, and, as my life has led me to become a writer, it's interesting that this memory has always been with me.

The memory is of a poem.
Actually, a poet reading a poem.
In school.
About trains.

Was I in Kindergarten?
First grade?
Who knows?
(Remember, I have issues with memory.)

I don't remember what the poet looked like, but the first few words of that poem have been stuck in my head for decades. The rhythm of it was what captured me:

"Stop Look Listen/as gate stripes swing down/count the cars hauling distance/upgrade through town:/

This mantra stuck in my head for years. Trouble was, that's all I could remember--that first line. I remember being so impressed by the poet that I memorized the whole poem (or, at least I think I did as a child.)

I've often thought about that poem over the years. Only recently, maybe about a year ago, I realized there's this thing called the Internet and I could look for it!

With a minimum amount of searching I found it. The poem is called The Crossing and the poet is Philip Booth. It was a joy to read the rest of the poem, and hear the wonderful rhythm of those words.

And the more I read about Philip Booth, the more I unraveled a piece of my own scattered memory.

Booth was known as Maine's "clearest, poetic voice."

Maine.
Hmm.
I was born in Maine.
So maybe Philip Booth came to my school when I was a little kid in Maine!
Eureka!

This was a great revelation for me.

Here's the poem, The Crossing, still in print, and accompanied by some amazing illustrations. I'll have to get it from Amazon.

If you have a child who likes trains, or just wonderful words strung together, I promise you and your kid will enjoy it.

4 comments:

Big Plain V said...

Wow, that did take me back. And it made me kind of sad, really -- I'll bet my kids have seen fewer than a half-dozen trains. Where did they all go?

Angela said...

What a great story--I'm glad you unearthed the meaning and connected it to your past. :-)

Elise Murphy said...

Lovely. Memory is such a fascinating thing. I took our eldest on a steam train once at Christmas. Would have been great to have this poem with us.

Margaret said...

that is a good poem--great train rhythm. No wonder it stuck with you and became the memory strand you pulled out to help you claim your Maine heritage. (Just joking about that.)
Hope the book can be found again. Kids books are so ephemeral.