I stood on the platform wrapped up in my brown herringbone overcoat waiting patiently for my folks to say their goodbyes. The train's engine huffed its impatience to move out as we said our farewells amidst hugs and tears.
Granddad stooped to face me. My tears made slippery tracks down my cheeks. He had been carrying a case which he now held toward me.
"I want you to have this, boy," he said. "It's my old banjo and I want you to carry it with you." My chubby little fingers slipped through the handle. I clutched the black case close to me. "You behave and listen to your daddy. We'll see you again one day."
As he spoke the train's whistle blasted.
"Come along," dad said to my mum and me. "We need to get aboard."
Granddad rose from his crouched position tusseling my hair. "You be a good boy." A tear glistened in his eye.
Dad turned. Suitcase in hand he stepped onto the train. The conductor was urging us inside as the train lurched to a roll.
"Bye Bye!" I shouted trying to wave and hold my banjo case.
Scooping me up, dad followed my mum through the coach door. We settled in a seat near the window. My grandparents stood on the platform as the train began our journey to South Hampton. I watched and waved while the station grew smaller with distance.
"Here let me put that up," dad said reaching for my banjo case. I held tight.
"Alright then. You can keep it," he said sitting down and slipping his arm around me.
I had no idea what was happening. We were leaving behind dad's family on our way to America. My days of sitting in a highchair watching dad and granddad cobble boots were gone. I was leaving behind everything I knew. All the memories of a child of three would fade with time. The bon fire celebrating Guy Fawkes Night roaring upward past the second story window of my room. The flickering light that woke me from a baby sound sleep to a wide eyed screaming child. Away from the highchair set above the coal bin from which I toppled bouncing amongst the coals to a rolling blackened stop. Away from my dog Whiskey, faithful companion. And away from the only home I had ever known.
We boarded the ship that sailed away from England to the harbour in New York. My mother's brother was there to meet us and drive us to South Carolina. It was dark as the car moved down the highway. There were balloons. We sat in the back seat. A packet of balloons was opened and to my delight they were blown up, tied off and handed to me. I remember the bouncing colors in the overhead light.
The rest is a blur of new places to live. Odd neighbors with cats, the smell of gas from the stove and a pool table belonging to a neighbor which I accidently ruined by ripping the felt with a cue stick. June bugs on a string circling my head in flight, kittens in an old wash house on a hot summer's day and lying in bed beneath a huge window fan drawing the night air through the house to cool us off are a few of the whirl of memories tucked in the recesses of my mind. They are stored away much as the herring bone coat and the banjo and its case.
I took that old banjo out a few years back and gave it to my daughter. It brought back a flood of old sights and sounds which once again have faded back into those recesses.