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Don't Jump the Track

Story ID:2280
Written by:Michael Timothy Smith (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Family History
Writers Conference:$500 2007 Family Memories Writing Project
Location:Fort Lee New Jersey USA
Person:My Life
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Don't Jump the Track

I sat on my deck in New Jersey. The birds fed at our feeder. Ginny
sat across from me reading a book. The setting sun coated everything
in orange. In the distance, I heard a train whistle…


The train rounded a corner. The whistle blew to warn a deer off
the tracks. I looked out the window. Miles of rail trailed behind me.
It was November 1979. I was twenty years old and fresh from technology
school. My degree in electronics was tucked safely in my suitcase. A
company hired me as a technician and sent me for three months of
training in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada. It was a city many miles
from my home in Nova Scotia

It was my first time away from home. I felt sick. All I knew and
loved were miles behind me, down those lonely tracks. I didn't want
to look ahead. I wanted to go back to what was comfortable.

Three months later, I returned home, only to be shipped off to
another city. Once again, I listened to the train whistle, watched
the miles of track pass by, and separate me from my past.


The train whistle blew, rousing me from sleep. I sat in the
last car of the train and looked back down the tracks. My wife and
children were back there in Nova Scotia. I was headed to New Brunswick.
They'd join me in a year. I wanted to be with them, but I couldn't - a
new job and another train.


I sat on the train. As we crossed a small road, the conductor
blew the whistle. I looked out the back window and watched the
rails speed away from me. New York City towered ahead of me.

My first wife was dead. She never had the chance to enjoy our
new home and all it had to offer. Her life was taken away from us.
My daughter lived five-hundred miles away in Ohio. It was just my
son and I, alone, in New Jersey.

The train moved forward. Miles of track were behind it. I
saw my life speeding away - always behind me.


"Mike?" Ginny asked. I didn't respond. "Mike?" she repeated.
"Huh?" I looked up at her. "Did you say something?"
"I asked you if you wanted to go into New York City and explore?"
"I'm sorry, Hun. I didn't hear you." The train whistle blew in
the distance. My past faded away. "I'd love to." I said.


I put my arm around my new wife, Ginny, and pulled her close
to me. We no longer sit in the back of the train. We sit up front,
watch the future unfold, and don't cry for the things we passed.
Just strap us to the front, where we can feel the winds of change
in our faces and see our future grow. And if we feel the ride
grow rough, as we're looking out the back, we know to look ahead,
because we may have jumped the track.

Michael T. Smith