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Oncoming train

When I was two and a half, my adoptive mother took me, her sister, Betty, and her sister's little girl, Jan (Jan was a year younger than I was) out for a drive somewhere in Pasadena, California (at the time, my adoptive parents and I lived in San Gabriel, California; I'm not sure where my adoptive mother's sister and brother-in-law lived then). We were driving someplace north of Colorado Boulevard, by a mural advertising Bekin's Van and Storage on one long wall of a business, going west on an east-west street parallel to a set of railroad tracks between us and the building on which that mural had been painted.

In the distance, east of us, a train was approaching our location, its horn announcing its approach, as we neared an intersection of the street we were on and a north-south street. The warning bells and the flashing lights announcing the approach of the train started up there, and the gates on either side of the tracks began to come down. Just then, my adoptive mother's face twisted up into a demon's mask, a terrible warped grin underscoring the hate in it, and in one swift motion she yanked the wheel around and turned right, heading north. By that time the train was close upon us. She barely got the car across the tracks before the gates were completely down, and from my perspective in the back seat, sitting behind Betty, with Jan on my right, it seemed that we cleared the intersection with the back bumper of the car about five inches ahead of the front of the train.

I knew exactly what would happen to us if we didn't make it across those tracks in time, with a full-audio vision of the scream of train brakes, the terrible crash of metal on metal, and the deaths of all four of us as the train hit us square amidships. I knew we were all about to die, and I screamed at the top of my lungs.

All that time Betty, who was somewhat older than my adoptive mother, Jane, and much more intelligent, sat there in the front seat, lying back against the door and the window there, smiling oddly, not saying anything to her sister to stop herd, paying no attention to my terror and her sister's weird behavior. My scream set Jan to screaming, and when we'd cleared the tracks, both Jane and Betty rounded on me, saying I'd upset Jan, saying nothing about just how close we all came to dying in a collision between a 1940s model car and a train going full out. Nor did they seem to care that if the train had hit us, it could easily have derailed, with a consequent injuries loss of lives of people aboard that train, from the locomotive all the way back to wherever the train ended. If that had been a freight train, a derailment could have spread dangerous cargo all over the place, perhaps starting fires that might have taken out four city blocks; otherwise, if it had been a passenger train, most or all of those aboard it could have been critically injured or died. But neither Jane nor Betty gave a damn, it seemed. All they cared about was yelling at me for upsetting Jan -- even though Jan could have sensed the danger, and that could have set her off.

I think my adoptive mother took care of whatever business she had in Pasadena, then drove back home afterward. Betty and Jan left later, or were picked up by Betty's husband, Bill. The rest of that day was spent in the 500-KW glare of my adoptive mother's anger at me; I don't remember anything else about it.

Just writing this out and sharing it removes some of the poison from it I hadn't been able to get rid of in all these 69 years -- the anger, the helplessness, the terrible resentment I felt, any of it. Our lives might have been saved by the Grace of G-d -- I can't think of anything else that might have done it -- but the fury and pain of it has still remained, like a giant carbuncle that never had the opportunity to drain. Writing this out might have started the opening and draining process in my emotional mind. Thank you for reading this.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 6th, 2016 11:14 pm (UTC)
The worst scare my parents ever gave me, was when I awoke at night by a knock on my bedroom window! I would not look out the window no matter how many times they told me it was the Easter Bunny!

Mar. 12th, 2016 06:46 am (UTC)
*hugs* back. Thank you for your kindness. <3
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


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Yael Dragwyla

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