I was hit by a train

We live a couple houses away from a family we’ve known since our boys were in kindergarten together.

That was the second year of my husband’s stint as stay-at-home dad. He and some moms formed a clique, which their husbands and I came into later. Fun fact: it turned out the mom of this story was my sister’s best friend from girlhood to maids of honor.

Our new house is down a short dirt path from them, and a few miles from the canyon. The canyon is where the train tracks are.

I bring this up, because I’ve been hearing the trains lately. I thought it was the overcast weather, carrying sound. We heard them during my Easter party, and the guests whipped their heads toward me to ask how that was.

Then yesterday I saw our friends’ boy driving his shiny new Jeep with lots of big horns on the top. He beeped them, and the mystery was solved. They’re train horns.

I used to have a terrible reaction to train horns, because when I was 8, I was hit by a train.

I remember only a little of it. It was a Friday night, and my dad and I went downtown to our favorite burrito window to get dinner.

I was allowed to get a bottle of orange soda. I couldn’t believe it.

We were in our brand-new wagon-style Datsun with a built-in eight-track player. It was the future, and we owned it. We had a Three Dog Night cartridge playing.

The errand took a long time, and on the way home I was having a fit. It was 8 p.m. We were going to miss The Donny and Marie Show.

Just as we got to the tracks the crossing guards went down. This was too much for me. We were blocks from home, and not only would I miss the opening song and dance, but I wouldn’t be there to hold my cassette recorder pressed to the TV speaker. (I still have those audio tapes. I still listen to them.)

We waited. Minutes went by, but no train did. While we sat there it turned from dusk to dark.

They were into the second sketch by then, I thought. The excitement of the orange soda was completely gone. Life was horrible.

Finally the crossing guards went up.

All of those memories are strong. After this it gets patchy.

I have a moment’s recollection of opening my eyes and seeing what looked like spiderwebs. The windshield had broken in just such a design. I asked what had happened, and my dad told me to sit back.

There was a blinding light coming through his window.

I regained consciousness for a glimpse of one of my nana’s sisters, Auntie Martha, coming into my hospital room.

My mom has filled in some of the blanks. The crossing guards had malfunctioned while train engines were being shuffled. It was not a full train going traveling speed, so much as the engine car being thrust across the street. It hit my dad’s side.

My dad showed up at the house more than an hour late, carrying an unconscious child across his arms. She saw him walking up the porch steps. He had bled on the white fur of my jacket hood, and she thought I was dead.

Except for completely missing that episode of Donny and Marie, I awoke no worse for the incident. My dad got away with facial stitches and a destroyed car. We had not been wearing seatbelts.

A week later my dad took me to the wrecking yard so I could retrieve the unharmed orange soda out of the Datsun. That was when I realized it was the windshield I had mistaken for spiderwebs. When we opened the car’s door, I caught that familiar odor of our favorite burritos — seven days in a hot car intensified it, but the scent was distinct.

Those became my triggers. Train horns and the smell of those particular burritos.

I’m over it by now. We eat at that burrito window every Wednesday night, and my friend’s silly horn makes me chuckle.

A week after the crash, during daylight, the crossing guards malfunctioned again in the same spot. Will you believe that train almost hit us again that afternoon?

After that, the tracks in this town went out of use. Now all trains must go through the canyon, where they are too far from my house to hear.

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4 Responses to “I was hit by a train”

  1. Mike Says:

    How was the orange soda? (I’m impressed with the reduce/reuse/recycle ethic you had as such a wee one…. That is, of course, what drove you to retrieve it, right?)

  2. T. Says:

    hey, i was all about being responsible. waste not, want not, my brothah.

  3. Rhonda Says:

    Only you, Toni.

  4. The yelling story « Stories O' Mine Says:

    […] moved to California when she 2 and a half. My husband became a stay-at-home dad and I left to work two […]

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