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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Another Tale From The Crypt

Image via ~ herronrail.com
When I was a little girl, I was able to ride a passenger train because my grandfather worked for the railroad as an Inspector.  He was the one they contacted whenever there was a train accident.  This tale is about one such ride with my Grandmother and my brother.  We were on our way to Ft. Benning, Georgia to visit my grandmother's daughter, my aunt. Her husband was in the Army at the time and they lived on base.  My brother and I were going to get to spend the summer with her.  I don't remember how long the train ride took but it was long enough (when you are a child everything seems like it takes a long time :).

Anyway, my brother was glued to the window and was so fascinated by the passing scenery that he wouldn't leave his seat, not even to eat!  All he could say was "Georgia here we come".  I remember the train was crowded and the only time anyone ever got up was to go to the bathroom in the back of the train car.  Grandma always brought crayons and color books and things to keep us occupied on these journeys because as you know there is nothing worse than kids that are bored and misbehave, something you didn't do when you were with my grandma.  She never missed a trick and had eyes behind her head because she pretty much knew when we did something we shouldn't have.

Image via ~ chuckmancollectionvolume9.blogspot.com
This is pretty much the way I remember the train looking on the inside
There were a lot of poor people on the train at the time, and because we lived in the country I didn't see a lot of what I would consider poor people.  We weren't rich by a long shot but we always had food, clean clothes and were always made to take a bath every night. Some of these people wore old, dirty and raggedy clothes, clothes that did not fit them and some had a terrible odor as viewed through the eyes of a 7 year old.  You ask me how a child of 7 would even be aware of something like that and I don't know what to tell you...just that I noticed things like that.  I was very honest and straightforward and was always taught to tell the truth and it seemed to me that telling the truth on this particular trip wasn't the best thing to do, so I learned.  I was told many times after I was grown that my honesty created some pretty embarrassing situations for my grandma and other relatives that I stayed with. This story is about one such situation.

Riding a train was exciting especially for two 7 and 8 year old kids.  We had been on the train for what seemed like a long time.  We were sitting a little past the middle of the train car and because the bathroom was behind us  everyone who had to use it had to pass by us.  I was sitting on the aisle seat that sat two in a row.  There was a lady who must have had some stomach trouble (now that I think about it ) and had to make several trips to the bathroom.  She was a rather large woman and every time she sashayed by I got a whiff of the most unpleasant odor that I believe I have ever smelled.  I didn't connect the smell at the time with her, only that I smelled something horrible.  In a voice that was way too loud (I didn't think so at the time but now I do) I said to my grandma "PeeU, something stinks, Grandma can you smell that"?  She told me to "hush" but I kept asking her if she smelled something.  Well, everyone who went to the bathroom had to come back past us to get to their seats and this same lady who had sashayed past to go was returning to her seat and again I smelled the odor.  Again, I said to my grandma " PeeU, something stinks". Grandma, don't you smell it"?  She grabbed me by my arm and in no uncertain terms told me to "shush"  "But...no but's about it you are being rude"  Be quiet.  Being a child is hard and after this lady passed by for about the 4th time I again repeated what I had said the other times.  I could tell that my grandma was really starting to get embarrassed because people were turning around in their seats looking at me.  You would have thought I would have stopped there but NO, I had to humiliate and embarrass her some more.  After we finally reached our destination and were queuing in line to get off the train, there was another lady in front of me who was very disheveled looking with dirty ill-fitting clothes who also had an odor.  This time I looked at her and said, very nicely  "If you don't have any decent clothes my mother will make you some", then I smiled thinking I was doing something good.  When I turned to look at my grandma her face was as red and the color of the devil.  Other people standing in line turned to look at me and my grandma who was clearly as embarrassed and as angry as anybody I had ever seen.  This was going to be "the end of the road" for me.

This was our destination
Image via ~ clarkkentslunchbox.com

She yanked me off the train and took me aside after she made me apologized to the lady and if we hadn't been on a platform she would have spanked me right then and there.  So, she did the next best thing, she scolded me and gave me the "the evil eye".  She told me what I said was cruel and that I should be ashamed of myself for embarrassing that woman.  She also told me that just because people are poor was no reason to make them feel bad about the way they are dressed...maybe they didn't have anything better to wear or maybe they didn't have money for a bar of soap.  Sometimes people have hard lives and you shouldn't be looking or saying anything bad about them for circumstances that they may not have had a choice about.  I felt so bad about what I had done that I kept all my negative thoughts about things to myself after that.

When we finally got to my Aunt's house my grandma proceeded to tell her what I had said and how embarrassed she was.  My aunt looked at me with the same "evil eye" that my grandma had given me (I guess my aunt got it from my grandma)  and told my grandma in front of me "Maybe we shouldn't take her anywhere anymore"?  Thats when I realized at the age of 7 that you just can't tell people what's on your mind without suffering consequences and that we should never "judge a book by its cover" or make cruel statements about people "when you have never walked in their shoes"!  An example of this was a farmer who lived down the road from us who always wore old beat up overalls and didn't have any teeth.  You would have thought he was a poor as a church mouse but in fact he was a very wealthy man. So you can never tell just by looking!

My grandma taught me a very important lesson, one that I have taught my own kids and grandkids and one that I hope parents remember to teach their own children. The lesson we all need to learn is "it's easy to make rash assumptions and laugh at the misfortunes of others based on their outward appearance."  It's much harder to withhold judgement and look at others with charity and love.

Do you have a tale to tell about a lesson you learned...do tell!

11 comments:

  1. What a lovely story!

    ♥ Franka

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  2. and how things like this stick with you forever

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  3. Thanks for visiting me so that I could click over here and read your wonderful story! And I see that you are from Dallas and I'm so excited that the series is back.

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  4. I just noticed that you put us on your blogroll. I'll do the same!

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  5. That IS a very good story! I think every parent have lived through that kind of embarassement, more or less... When my rascals were acting like that, I told them (quite serious looking) that they should never say to another person what they wouldn´t want to hear themselves. They could understand that kind of reasoning so I haven´t heard them say anything they shouldn´t after that, luckily!

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  6. oh what a story. i was just reading it and i got a message from you on my blog ! how crazy is that!!

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  7. Kris, I am cracking up, not at the story, but at you saying those things when you were seven! A child is so innocent, and as a child I was so honest like you, and just spoke bluntly. When you thought you did a good thing by telling the lady your mom would make her some clothes, I smiled big because the heart of a child is precious. And "the eye"!!!! Oh my gosh, I didn't think anyone was given "the eye" by their parents but me....how funny. Your stories are so special, and this one made my heart sing.
    ~Sheri at Red Rose Alley

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  8. I can imagine your Grandmother wanting the earth to swallow her up. I once took a bus ride with my daughter and there was a wiffy man in the seat in front of us, eventually a head louse crawled from his hair. You can guess the rest.

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  9. That was an amazing story. My mom or Grandmother would have dragged me to the person and made me apologize really. As, I remember being 'mean' like that not really knowing I was being mean as a child and I had to say sorry. But, lessons like that make us better and more caring people. It's those who never get taught these things that turn out mean later in life sadly. Loved this :) xx

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  10. Kris: That is quite a story! I love all your descriptions of a child waiting, traveling, the endless time it takes, and the being SO observant of all those around...So, did your aunt sort of hold this against you while you were there? or was she nice to you??? Where were you coming from to go to Ft. Benning?

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