Manhattan Christmas Eve (xiii)

Penn Station is only a block away and by 12:45 we stood under the reader board and watched as other trains left. As we entered the station, I noticed another shrine with flowers and flags and photographs. It was mostly paper tacked to a plywood wall covering a construction area within the station. I had not seen it when Mattie and I arrived that morning, either not passing that way or just did not notice it. Now I noticed.

Specific tracks are not identified until ten or fifteen minutes before leaving. Our train was to leave at 1:15 but its departure track was not called until 1:10, so there was a rush for the stairs to Track 21. It was the only time throughout the whole day I was separated from Sue and Lee and Mattie. I could see them, but there were dozens of others between us.

Separation only lasted a moment; we all stepped on board and sat in facing seats: Sue and I facing Lee and Mattie. As the train pulled out, right on time, Sue drifted off into a nap, Lee and Mattie goofed on each other, and I took a few photographs of all of them.

When the train arrived in Farmingdale, it was 2:10; just 12 hours since the hard rain awoke me. The sun was out as we descended from the platform and in single file walked towards Main Street. As we walked, considerably slower than the Manhattan pace, we drew closer together and talked. I thought of and mentioned another Christmas Eve when I walked that same route. It was 1986, Sue and Lee and I had just ridden the train for 24 hours from Palatka arriving in Farmingdale and walking from the train station on Christmas Eve. It was the last time all of Sue’s brothers and sisters had been together for Christmas.

As we turned onto Main Street and walked the sort distance to Priscilla’s house, we were in the best of spirits. It was Christmas Eve, we all felt blessed and humbled by our good fortune. We were family and so glad to be. We also were deeply aware, each in our own way, of all those in need of a special blessing on this Christmas Eve. Each in our own way sent our blessing on to others as we entered the warm house.

[an essay in 13 parts from Pablo Notes, 2001]

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