Wednesday, January 8, 2014

“What is the scariest thing that has ever happened to you?”

On a TV program I was watching recently, one character asked the other “what is the scariest thing that has ever happened to you.”  That question stuck in my mind and I have given it a lot of thought.
First, I had to ask myself what they meant. Did they mean scary as in seeing a ghost or did they mean what frightened you the most emotionally.  I’ve decided to interpret the question to mean the latter. 
I have been in many situations that fall into the scary or frightening category.  Among them have been an armed robbery, house fire, car accident, tornado, cancer, bankruptcy, death of a spouse, and having to start over and face life after these tragic events.  But, after much consideration, I believe the scariest thing that ever happened to me was the cross-country train trip I made with my brother one summer. 
My family made a trip south to visit my mother’s family and my bother and I celebrated our July birthdays with a cousin born the same month.  I turned seven and my brother was six.   My mother was expecting her sixth child near the end of August so my parents accepted my Uncle’s invitation for my brother and me to stay with him until time for school to start. 
On the last Saturday in August my Uncle took us into Montgomery, Alabama and put my brother and me on the evening train for St. Louis.  I was told that we could sleep most of the trip but was warned that I was responsible for keeping track of our baggage, tickets and my brother.  I was also told that the porter would make sure we made our transfer to another train in Nashville and our parents would meet us at the station in St. Louis. 
Old post card of the Grand Hall, Union Station, St. Louis, Mo.  circa 1950's
I can tell you I did not sleep a wink that trip.  My brother would not stay in his seat and kept trying to go explore the railcar.  I feared I would find our baggage had disappeared each time I went to chase him and bring him back to our seats.  Finally, I worried about everything possible.  Would we miss our connecting train, would our baggage or one of us get lost?  Would we be met at the station? 
Well, the baggage didn’t disappear, we made the transfer with everything intact; and my brother and I and all our baggage was safely deposited on the platform in St. Louis.  But, my parents were nowhere in sight.  I soon realized I was missing the cute little purse my Aunt had given me to hold our tickets and what money she thought we might need and it was to late to go looking for it because the train was also nowhere in sight.
 Circa 1950's Union Station, St. Louis, Missouri 
What seemed like ages passed before my tardy parents with my new baby sister arrived to get us.  My brother wouldn’t stop crying because I had promised to buy him a treat when we got to the station but now I had no money. My father was in a foul mood and refused to take the time to report my missing purse.

It was some fifty plus years later before I decided to chance another train trip.  


  1. That sounds like a scary situation. To have all that responsibility is a lot for a seven year old. I've had some very scary experiences also. I need to think about which was my scariest.

  2. It's interesting how people used to send children on long journeys alone. It was a bit like being a package - being 'put in the care of the guard'. I even remember having luggage labels with our names and addresses on tied to the lapels of our coats. (I too had a younger brother.) Being on the train wasn't bad. But not being collected from it - that would have been terribly frightening. No wonder this has lived with you.

  3. Wow -- you had some early practice with scary!

  4. First, I so appreciate how you pause to think outside the box ... a totally different way in which to interpret this question.
    How I've missed your "voice", Rita ... I can so visualize you and your brother's journey ... facial images left to the imagination - lol!.

    But to answer your question? I suppose the most frightening - and haunting - thing to happen in my lifetime was returning home to my condo with the police flyer on the door stating they responded to a 9-1-1 call. (I originally shared this in early 2009, but it still remains a mystery.)