As I write this, I can hear a train whistle off in the distance. That sound takes me back to my childhood home in Bonham, Texas where I could hear a distant train whistle as well.
I would have been less than nine-years-old when I routinely heard that train whistle. I know that because from ages 5 – 9, I slept in the upstairs “kids” room, on the south side of our Dutch Colonel. That room had nine windows – three on each side – which were wide open every day from late spring to late fall so that the breeze could blow through. Of course, there were screens on the windows to keep mosquitos from coming in and to keep my older brother George, baby brother, Sam, and me from falling out. From my twin bed, I could easily hear that train whistle in the early mornings and late evenings. I loved the whistle’s deep timbre and the higher-pitched clicking of the train wheels on the tracks, which spurred visions of hobos happily stowing away in open-door boxcars as they headed off on distant adventures.
Another favorite sound of mine from the “kids” room, was the whispering of the wind in the trees. From my bed, I could easily see the huge oak tree in our back yard and our big pecan tree in the side yard and I loved living on the same level with those beloved branches that I scaled during the day. At night, I often snuggled into my covers, listening to the lulling rustle of the leaves in both that oak and pecan tree. Not only could I hear the gentle wind as it shook the leaves, but I could also feel the coolness of the breeze as it blew through the windows, chasing away the heat from the day.
Two touchstones of my childhood – distant train whistles and the wind in the trees – continue to bring comfort to me even midway through my sixth decade on earth. They couple far-off adventure with the safety of a warm and secure bed and perhaps are at least partly responsible for both my love of traveling as well as my deep affection for home.
I love that my current home in Sherman (twenty-five miles away from my hometown) has a distant train whose whistle blows every evening. I am also pleased that not only does this home have a pecan tree, but three oaks as well. I routinely hear leaves rustling in those trees. What a comforting reminder of my childhood where I felt both a call to adventure and a grounded sense of safety. A lovely combination indeed.