quilt lady

Ghosts of Christmases Past


The mind is such a piece of ‘miracle works.’ How it stores memories can only be done by the ultimate Person greater than any of us here on earth. Yesterday I was having lunch with a friend. She ordered a ‘ham sandwich, just meat and bread.’ A clear vision of such a sandwich popped into my mind of years ago during WWII while aboard a Christmas train headed to Memphis, Tennessee with my parents to visit my oldest brother who was stationed there at a Navy base. I was not even school age, but can remember sitting crowded up between mom and dad so that we only used two seats because the train was loaded with Army men on what was called a ‘troop train.’ A man who worked for the railroad came through the train selling ham sandwiches for ten cents apiece for non-military people, but free for the Army men. The sandwich was on white bread with a little spread of mayo and a thin slice of ham. We got small white paper cups for water at the drinking fountain at the end of the coach.

My having a father who worked for the railroad, we had ‘passes’ to anywhere we wished to go. This was great because my mom missed seeing my two Navy brothers so very much. One later served on a destroyer escort in the Atlantic after his Memphis training. My other brother was a gunner on a PBY in the Pacific. We rode the train to see him in Jacksonville before he ‘shipped out.’

Riding trains was such a great way to travel. Sometimes mom and I would get a “berth” to sleep from West Texas to Dallas. If you’ve seen the movie, “Some Like it Hot” you know how the berths looked. We felt perfectly safe once we were bedded down with only a curtain between us and the others above us or across from us. Wow, has the world changed that much? I loved going to the dining car where they had beautiful white damask cloths on the tables with sterling silver cream and sugars and salt and pepper shakers. I have found some of the old silver in antique stores with the railroad emblem engraved on them. Such treasures. The strange thing about this story is that both of my brothers returned home after the war and went to work for the same railroad where my father had worked. They became executives in the company before they retired.

The last train I rode on was called a ‘local train’ in Italy this past September that stopped at each village of Cinque Terre. A few years ago, I rode the train through the ‘Chunnel’ from London to Paris. I kept my eyes closed the whole time since I am so claustrophobic. I didn’t want to think about being under the English Channel! The super train in Japan that goes at lightning speed wasn’t even fun because one cannot see very much at such a speed. We flew across the countryside. I could see Mount Fiji, however. I’ve ridden a train from Bergen, Norway to Oslo in the snow. That was awesome. Any tour that advertises a train ride, I am game for that.

I’ve made quite a collection of fabrics with railroad memorabilia. “Feature fabrics” are fun to collect. Golf fabrics, sailing fabrics, are great theme fabrics. Walking through a fabric store, I can spot one of those in a heartbeat. Making children’s quilts with these fabrics are always a hit with them. You might want to start your own collection of theme fabrics for future use. Keep fabrics stored behind closed doors to keep the light from fading them. I have a friend in Texas who stores her fabrics in the trunk of her car so that her husband has no idea how much fabric she has; now, that is funny. I have to confess that I once stored fabrics in a bathtub for several months until a houseguest was coming and it had to be moved! Mercy! Confession is good for the soul.

Pictured is a beautiful hand embroidered apron featured in the Prato Textile Museum in Italy. If we start now, we might be able to do something like this for next Christmas. Just joking. This is a masterpiece, for sure.