Sunday, December 8, 2019

The Butterfly Hours Memoir Project: TRAIN

For 2019 I'm running a year-long series on my blog in which I share my responses to the writing assignment prompts found in THE BUTTERLY HOURS by Patty Dann.

I welcome you to join me, if you like! I've divided the prompts by month, and the plan is to respond to 3 (or so) a week. For some of these I may write poems, for others prose. The important thing is to mine my memory. Who knows where this exploration will lead?

For links to the prompts I've written on so far this year, please click on The Butterfly Hours tab above.

This (final!) month's prompts are train, trophy, typewriter, umbrella, Vietnam, war, washing machine, widow, window.


I was 13 years old when we moved from Folsom, LA to Birmingham, AL. I did NOT want to move. After five years in one place, I finally felt “at home.” I had friends I could count on. I was enjoying school and piano lessons and church choir. There was a boy I adored, horses in the pasture, oak trees for climbing, and a gurgling creek where we could catch crawdads.

I tried to convince my parents I should move in with one of my friends, but, of course, they did not allow it. Instead, they sent me back for a visit just a couple of months after we moved. I boarded an Amtrak train all by myself, and for 7 hours I watched the world pass by my window, my stomach churning butterflies the whole time. I couldn't wait to see my friends! I was even going to be able to attend a day at my old school. I was so excited that I don't remember much about the train ride, except that it got me where I wanted to go.

Only, it wasn't anything like I expected it to be. Everyone had changed. They'd moved on without me. The school day was miserable... I didn't fit there anymore, and I didn't fit in my new place either. It was a brutal lesson in how you can't backwards in life. Only forward. Perhaps my parents knew this, that I would need a dose of reality. I have always been highly imaginative, and have often idealized times, places, relationships. Yet, here it was, here I was, and it wasn't the way I remembered it AT ALL. It was sad, but it was also easier to move on after that trip.

Someday I am going to write a poem in two parts: the first half about riding the train TO New Orleans, and the second part about riding it back to Birmingham. I kind of grew up in that few-days'-space between. Sigh.

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