American Literature 9B December 3, 2012
The Place Where I Belong
Hi, my name is Mary Emily Black and I was born in 1953 and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota. I am twenty-three years old and am currently living in Carson City, Nevada. In the fourth grade, everyone in my class was given a pen pal from somewhere in the United States. My pen pal’s name was Lucy and she lived in Sacramento, California. I wrote Lucy at least once a week, telling her all about school and my family. Lucy was an only child too, but we both wanted a sibling terribly. Through our letters, Lucy and I became such close friends. All throughout elementary and middle school, we wrote to each other every week. During my first year of high school, I went to the mail box to receive my letter from Lucy. I quickly opened it, but there was no letter inside. Instead, there was a ticket that fell out of the envelope onto the driveway. I hurriedly picked the ticket up to see what it was for. Attached to the train ticket was a note which said,
This is for you to come and visit me soon! Cannot wait to see you in person!
I was so surprised and filled with excitement as I read her little note and held the ticket in my trembling hands. Throughout the rest of that day, I could not stop smiling as my heart raced with eagerness.
About a week before I was going to leave to visit Lucy, my mom became sick with Scarlet Fever. This was devastating not only because scarlet fever can be deadly, but because my mom was, at the time, six months pregnant. I had always longed for a sister. Although my mom was very sick, I wanted so badly to go meet Lucy for the first time.
“Go on,” my mom would say, “I’m getting better. Don’t you worry about me.” But I could tell in her eyes that she was not. However, I convinced myself that she would get better and that I could not waste a ticket that was given as a gift. So, as planned, I left to go to Sacramento, California.
Before I knew it, I was climbing aboard the train to California. I had never ridden on a train before. The smell of the train station was like that of a gathering of people who had not showered for days. As I raised my handkerchief to my nose, I took one step at a time to find my place on the inside of the train. On the inside it smelled like Christmas morning. The fresh scent of pine wood was in the air. Everyone on the train looked so kind and friendly. I must have stood in the door way for at least ten minutes, my eyes growing bigger by the second as I took in the atmosphere around me.
I moved from the doorway down the aisle of the first car. Booths and chairs were along the isle to each side. The chairs were quickly filling up with the people eager to find a place to sit. I looked around for an open chair or booth. Way in the back, at the very end of the aisle, was a booth with two seats on either side. I immediately bolted down the aisle in order to claim that seat because there was no way I would stand during that whole train ride. As I sat down, I heaved a huge sigh of relief. Now all that was left was to enjoy the ride.
I waited for the engine to begin huffing and puffing, for the sound of the people at the station to yell at their loved ones “good-bye!” This was all a new adventure for me, and I eagerly waited for it to begin.
“Excuse me, is this seat taken?” I looked up to see an elderly woman, probably in her early sixties, standing in front of me. She smelled like she was wearing a very expensive perfume and she wore a bright red leather coat.
“No, it’s not,” I responded.
“Well then I guess it has my name on it,” she replied giving me a sweet old- lady smile. I smiled back and then quickly jerked my head to stare out of the window because I was not sure it would be polite to observe this elderly lady anymore.
After about half an hour or so, I turned from the foggy glass to see the old lady knitting something that looked to be a scarf. She had a bright purple yarn and two silver knitting needles.
She saw that I was looking at her work and said, “Oh, this is for my granddaughter. She is sick with scarlet fever, so I figured it would be nice to make her a gift. I can’t even imagine her lying in bed all day so miserably. She was always so full of life and energy.” As the old lady continued to tell me all about her granddaughter and all her grandkids, I began to think about what she had said about her granddaughter having so much energy. My mother used to be that way before she became sick. Always so happy and content. But now, every time I thought of her, I saw her just lying there, as though all the energy had been sucked out of her. It was like she was not even the same woman anymore.
“I haven’t properly introduced myself. My name is Miss Anna Watkins, but you may call me Anna. And you are?”
“My name is Mary Emily Black.”
“Well it’s very nice to meet you Mary Emily. Where are you off to?” “California. I am going to visit a friend.”
“California! Wow that’s a long ways away for such a young girl to go by herself. I’m headed to Carson City, Nevada myself. How old are you sweetie?”
“I turn fifteen in December. My friend who I am going to visit actually bought this ticket for me. I was almost not able to go, though, because my mom became sick with scarlet fever.”
“Well I am happy to know she is better now. Family is the most important thing in life. It is always important to be there for your family, even in the toughest times, so that they may support you when you need it.”
I thought about what she had said and began to feel my stomach turning inside me. “Miss Anna? My mother is not better. She is still sick and I left her.”
“You poor thing! Don’t cry. Everything is alright. Everything is–” She started to cough in between words until finally, her coughing ceased.
“Miss Anna? Miss Anna, can you hear me? Somebody, anybody, help!” Those where the last few words I screamed before I was surrounded by darkness.
When I awoke I found myself still on a train, but a different one. I slowly sat up and looked around. I do not remember if I fainted or blacked out, but all I do remember is waking up and not recognizing anyone. What had happened to Miss Anna? She was nowhere in sight. I prayed that she had made it safely to her granddaughter and that whatever had happened to her was not too severe.
“Ma’am, excuse me? Where is this train headed?” “Minnesota,” she replied with a twinkle in her eye.
I was so thrilled to be on my way home. I didn’t care how, but I was on my way to where I was needed the most and where I belonged.