Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Spring 1942; the silver Empire Builder, engine surging impatiently, stood ready to jump the starting line; Minneapolis/St. Paul. Just like the huge locomotive, the entire country was pulsating with energy, ready for action. War! War! Work for everyone. In fact more work than there were workers. For a country where the devastating depression years were still very fresh, full employment for anyone was heady, a headlong, new romance.

A woman, dressed in a light-colored, patterned dress, chunky shoes, and the requisite hat plopped on her short, curly hair, boarded the train. Two girls and a small boy, followed, ducklings in a row. They settled in their seats, looked around hesitantly, excited. Clearly, it was a family not used to traveling and certainly not on a train.

"All aboard!" the conductor swung up from the platform behind a slight, pretty woman. He red curls bounced beneath the pinwheel of her hat as she marched swiftly down the aisle. She held a toddler; a little girl.

"Corrina - ! the family said - in unison.

"I'm coming too."

They knew better than to question Corrina when her sharp chin jutted out, her penciled brows knit together. Family members never questioned each other. Conversations were rarely more than superficial, spoken words were only those necessary. What made a person tick, lived and died with that person. Personal thoughts were private; not to be shared. Problems, difficulties, pain, sorrow, even violent behavior were moments in time - not to be spoken of. It's the Scandinavian way; the ice of silence.

The eleven year old girl felt sad inside. What had happeed to her brother-in-law, Joe? She liked him. He was funny. When he was around, she could breathe. Now here was Corrina again. She hated the way her older sister was always angry; hated that she had to tiptoe around her and not upset the woman who was always upset anyway.

"Just because she's beautiful. Just because she's Dad's favorite. Who cares?" Her thoughts tumbled. She was glad they were moving away. She would not miss the tiny town and all the people who knew they were poor. That her father drank and sometimes mistreated her mother. Everything was going to be different. New friends, new school, new house, new everything.

The toddler climbed beside her. The thrum of the train's wheels sung to them - "new life - new life" as they both pressed their noses to the window, giggling.

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