There is a woman walking down platform 1.
She has been here many time before.
It is cold tonight, being January.
She walks steadily from one end of the platform to the other,
following the line of textured paving slabs.
Her shoulders are hunched,
and if you could feel under her jacket she is shivering very slightly.
Each time, at the far end, she pauses and stares down the track
before turning to retrace her steps.
The train is late, again,
nearly an hour.
The information board is blank.
Finally a bright light approaches and a train comes to a halt.
But it’s not the one she wants, though she checks all the carriages
just in case she’s mistaken.
On the opposite platform another train arrives.
A few students bringing home their washing get off the train from Bristol.
She resumes walking, to pass the time as much as to keep warm.
Finally, without warning, the one she is hoping for.
Heart pounding she pursues it down the platform as it slows,
scanning each door window as they pass ..
… and then she sees them.
Somebody waves, they are looking out for her too.
She smiles stupidly and waves as they all wait for the door to unlock.
There is that awful moment as the door opens;
who comes out first,
who gets the first hug.
She tries to hold them all at the same moment,
to gather them up in her arms,
but they are too big for that now.
The teenager is laid back and casual, ‘Hi mum’.
The twins; one nuzzles in tight, the other more keen to just get home.
And the youngest, pushed out by her siblings, pulls a sulky face
but relents and gets a carry to the car.
And they talk.
So much talk,
words tumbling over each other in the rush,
as if they need to say it all in the first five minutes:
what happened at school,
who got into trouble,
who had a row with dad,
who lost something.
Then; have I got the day off,
did I buy a PS2,
can we get such and such,
can we have this for dinner,
when are we doing that,
are we getting pocket money?
The weekend will not last,
trying not to watch the clock,
too soon they are gone again.
It is only in this moment that I can stop missing them.
(Written initially some years ago as a short story for the MATCH magazine, Mothers Apart From Their Children. I used to meet my kids at Cheltenham station late on Fridays. Fortunately that is no longer part of our lives. Now I just meet the youngest on her return, she still hates trains. The change from third to first person is deliberate.)
(Linking back to The Poetry Bus on TFE’s blog.)
(Just popping back to add a link to the most famous train poem, Night Mail by W.H. Auden, on Youtube)