Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Through a Child's Eyes

I wrote this for my college composition class. We had to write about a memory. This memory is about our move from Chicago to Los Angeles in 1964. I still wonder at how different things looked back then, compared to now. I'm having trouble with how it is formatting to this blog...been fighting it for over an hour, sigh...

The Redwood Trees
My car idles gently as I sit in my car watching a train whisk by in front of me with a thunderous
whoosh, and I can also feel the pulse that accompanies the sounds of clacking wheels. The rhythmic
sounds and the blur of the passing train cars transport my thoughts back in time. I see myself as a 
little girl nine years of age holding a shopping bag with all of my most treasured belongings. 
Dad had already made sure our big trunks, which contained the bulk of the belongings we chose to bring with us, would be taken to the train's baggage car.Mom had my little brothers in tow;Fred was four years
old and Patrick was only two. Chicago, the doctor had said, was bad for my mom's mental and
physical health, and therefore had advised my parents to move to a new location. We waited and tried to 
occupy ourselves until it was time to board our train. Dad had shared the picture with us that was on the 
brochure he had brought home from a travel agency. The picture showed tall redwood trees, a whole forest 
of them, and he proclaimed excitedly “That's where we are going, Susan!”. Living in a forest of redwood 
trees had filled me with anticipation. I wondered what would it be like
 to live in a forest. We had always lived in a city, however, before we came to America the buildings 
were nowhere near as tall as they were in the city of Chicago.
 Living in a redwood forest would be a completely different way of life, and it would be a whole new
beginning for us.
Just before reaching the station dad had gotten us a little carton of fried rice, one of the little “to go”
boxes, from a Chinese food restaurant. We had all shared a few bites of it while we were waiting. That
rice was delicious, however, I was still hungry after those few bites because it was dinnertime and those few bites weren't enough to fill my hungry tummy. I held on to my daddy's hand with my right hand as my left hand still held onto my grocery bag's handles tightly. It was finally time to go to our train. We hurried to the platform where our train awaited us. It was going to be a long ride from Chicago to California. I set my bag at my feet in front of me, and then leaned back into my seat. I was seated in a middle seat, and was not by a window, but there really wasn't all that much to see out of the window. People were scurrying this way and that on the platform as they rushed to board the train. I reached in front of me and dug into my bag. I had put
some Hopjes coffee candy into my bag of my personal treasures and the hunger in my tummy now
urged me to find them. I first had to move my Chinese wind chimes that were made of delicate glass. 
The chimes had to be placed on top of everything so that they wouldn't be crushed and be broken by
the weight of the rest of my stuff. I loved the sound of the musical tinkling of those chimes. Maybe I
would be able to hang them from the branch of a redwood tree. The chimes would look so lovely
hanging on a tree. They tinkled merrily while I held them up with my left hand, and dug through my
bag with my right. 
The candies were way at the bottom, beneath my sweater and underneath my favorite doll, the only doll I was allowed to bring with me. There were several other dolls and stuff that the
limitations of what we could bring on our move had forced me to leave in Chicago. When I found the
candy package I removed one piece, and then returned the rest of the candy, and my Chinese chimes,
carefully into my shopping bag.I had taken a ride on a train once before. When we first came to America from the Netherlands, we came to the U.S. by boat. The exodus of that previous time took us through Ellis Island, and from there, we quickly transferred onto a train headed west for Chicago because my mom insisted that we could not remain in New York. She did not like what she had heard about that big city. She did not realize that Chicago was also a big city with huge, intimidating high rises. In all her life she had never seen such buildings, and she felt suffocated by them. The highrises blocked out so much of the sky, and
they were dirty and gray. I thought about the big redwood trees. Those huge trees would also be very
tall and would block out much of the beautiful blue sky, but redwood trees are beautiful and natural,
and they are not at all like the ugly buildings of concrete and glass. I pondered these thoughts as I sat
there enjoying my coffee flavored candy. 
I had been given a coloring book and crayons at the train station. Sitting quietly in my seat, I sud-
denly got the urge to do some coloring. Reaching back into my bag my tinkling chimes had to come up
again, this time to seek out my crayons and coloring book. I would reach into my bag several times
during the trip, sometimes during the middle of the night, to the consternation of the other train pass-
engers as I blessed the sleeping passengers with the beautiful sounds of those tinkling chimes.
The train ride seemed to go on and on forever. My dad changed seats with me so I could look out
through the window as we continued on our long journey. Whenever we came to a curving bend in the
train's tracks, I could look back and see other train cars behind ours, and when there was no bend in the
tracks, I could only see the countryside. Mostly I saw farmlands with green plants in long and pretty
rows, or I saw cows grazing in pastures. Sometimes we passed through wooded and hilly areas, and
then everything would go dark while we went through a tunnel that went deep into the inside of a
mountain. Then we would come out of the mountain tunnel on the other side, to see daylight once
When my gaze turned from the window it  almost seemed as though we were not moving at all. The
low rumbling sounds of the wheels moving along the tracks, and the vibration of our movement with in the train car were the only things, other than the view of passing scenery seen through the window, that
gave evidence that the train was constantly moving.
Hour after hour we continued on toward our destination. Santa Fe All the Way, was the slogan
printed on my coloring book, and on the inside were outlines of a little Indian boy tracking a bunny
rabbit. The Indian boy that was pictured on the inside pages of the coloring book was the same little
boy who was pictured on the train company's logo. 
I noticed that the sounds of the wheels were slowing, and outside the window I could see buildings
and streets. We were stopping in this town so I tried to see if I could find any glimpse of the redwood
forest. There was not a trace of huge trees anywhere, so I looked at my dad with a questioning look. He
smiled knowing my thoughts and said “We are in Santa Fe, New Mexico. We still have a long way to
go.” I sighed as I settled back into my comfortable spot. I had grown tired of coloring. I had colored
almost every page of my entire coloring book. I put the coloring book back into my bag . My eyes
grew heavy and I fell sound asleep. 
Wake up, Susan” It was my mom telling me it was time to leave the train. We had arrived at our
destination at last. Oh the excitement of it, I would get to see those beautiful reddish brown tree trunks
of the huge redwood trees. I held on tightly to my bag as we were herded off the train. My legs felt a
little funny and wobbly from being in my seat for so long. It was good to be standing again. “Where is
daddy?” I asked my mom. “He has to get the rest of our luggage” was mom's answer to me. I could
hardly wait to leave the station so our eyes could celebrate the vision of those beautiful trees.
When we stepped outside of the station, there was hardly a tree in sight. The trees that I did see
were hardly more than large shrubs compared to the trees that were pictured on the brochures. I asked
my dad “Daddy, where are the big redwood trees?” He simply laughed at me and said “We are in Los
Angeles, honey.” I had to simply accept the fact that this was something only grownups would know the answer to, and not a little kid like me.
Now that I look back, I chuckle at my innocent naivete. The picture of the redwood forest on the cover of 
the brochure was not a picture of our destination, but it was simply a picture of something California is 
famous for. It was just one example of the many things that I would get wrong, like the time I believed that 
using a certain shampoo would make my comb float through my hair all by itself, just like the comb floated 
through the woman's hair in the commercial after she used that shampoo. Life was going to be different from
 how it was before, but it would also be very different from how I had imagined it would be.
The clacking sounds of the train grow softer and softer, and slowly fade into the distance. The 
  gates that separate my car from the railway tracks slowly rise up. All the cars around me begin to stir 
  as if coming back to life again. Looking at the clock on the dashboard I notice that almost five minutes 
  have gone by while I was waiting for the train to pass. As I rush over the tracks I hope to myself that
  this little interruption in my day does not cause me to be late for work. Maybe if I hurry I can make up 
  those lost few minutes and still make it to work on time. 

Check out links to info about railways:  http://www.lariverrailroads.com/


  1. Very nice Susan! You write beautifully. Thanks for sharing.


    1. I think about this misunderstanding of mine from time to time. It was a classic example of not knowing what adults "just know" from experience... but for me it felt like I had been lied to. How much of what the Lord is trying to tell us is likewise misunderstood by our immature understanding? Thankfully He is very kind and wise, and He is helping us to grow into knowing the things He wants us to know about. :)

      Thanks for visiting Child of God.

    2. I enjoyed that!

      It was a classic example of not knowing what adults "just know" from experience... but for me it felt like I had been lied to.

      I know what you mean. Having little kids around here, it sometimes shocks me how different their perspective it from ours. A window got broken last weekend in our house and my 5 year old upon seeing said "Now we have to move" ...it took him few minutes to realize all was not lost and the window could be replaced.

    3. So true, Ma. :) We as adults have many of our ways and ideas set, but they are still being molded, their young ideas are fresh and interesting.


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