Charles Eggerth

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From a painting by Howard Fogg

Yes, I remember that train.
Funny a picture should bring back
so sharp an image from forty years ago.
That’s the Boston and Maine Christmas local to Tilton, and points beyond.
(I had to wait for the extra. The regular train
was packed. Carried more people at Christmas time
than the rest of the year put together.)
I’d be almost willing to bet the year was 1947.
It’s still all up there in my mind;
church steeple, red covered bridge, people sleighing.
I’d wager they don’t do that anymore.
Pristine is too mundane a word
to tell you how it looked, what I felt,
what I feel now. And do you know
what stands out the most? A conversation I had
with an elderly fellow, white-haired,
a gentleman (and he was) named Allison.
I believe I could almost repeat what he said verbatim.
Let’s see:

“You wonder why the leaves fall.
Maybe it’s to clean up the countryside.
Maybe it’s to bring the snow,
the clean, white snow.
I have longed, God knows I’ve longed,
to be that pure, that washed,
that covered with layers of newness.
Have you ever noticed what the first snow does to a country church?
Makes you want to go in,
I’ll say that much for starters,
makes you want to go in and pray
to the God you know is there, or somewhere nearby.
And the mountains. The mountains in snow
Look newer than the morning paper.
Yes, that first snow redeems all of November in a hurry.
But then it turns dirty.
I know how that feels also.
Yes, I know exactly how that feels.
But the train runs through it all.
What do you suppose a train means?
I think it means that God gives gifts to men.
What do you think?”

I don’t recollect exactly what I did think.
I do remember wondering if he wasn’t a bit crazy.
I’m sure now he wasn’t.
I’m sure now he knew more
than any professor in that Boston school
I was sent to. I recall him now
as one of two wise people I’ve known,
the other being your mother.
When you feel what he felt,
see in yourself what he saw,
you’ll know what I mean.
Yes, that was the train ride, alright.
But I didn’t know it for twenty years.
Oh well. So soon old,
so late smart, as you might remember your mother saying.
Therein lies another tale; more likely a hundred.
Those we’ll save for after supper.
I think I’ll hang this painting in the front room.
Thank you, Mr. Fogg, for the memory.

Charles Eggerth is a 68, retired mail carrier who is working for Jesus. The highlight of his existence is volunteer work with an organization in Winston-Salem called City Lights Ministry, whose goal is to get Jesus into the neighborhood by whatever means necessary. He participates every Tuesday afternoon by assembling beds in apartments for kids, the majority of whom have never slept in a bed before.

Photo by Alexander Zvir on

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