The train rattled back and forth as my cousin Joseph and I were jostled about. We were sitting on our suitcases in the aisle of the train as there were no seats left. I was fourteen and Joseph was twelve at the time and we were traveling to his home in New Jersey. Down the aisle a bit from where we were sitting, were my Aunt Maud and my other cousin, Harry. Harry was ten years old. They had been visiting us and other relatives in the small town in Pennsylvania where we lived. Aunt Maud and my mother were sisters but Maud had married and moved to New Jersey a number of years ago. Maud had another child who was being cared for at home by Maud’s mother-in-law. Tina was only three and not really a good traveler so it was decided to leave her at home.
The train continued its rattling and it was beginning to upset my stomach which was delicate to begin with. As far back as I can remember, I had a delicate stomach. Certain foods did not agree with me and as a result, I was very careful what I ate. The train was not helping anything.
It was a long trip from where I lived to their home near the beach in New Jersey and I was really looking forward to spending the summer with Aunt Maud and especially Cousin Joseph, since he was the closest to my age. I was going to be babysitting some of the time and helping Aunt Maud with light cleaning also.
They lived near the bay in Asbury Park and Joseph and I and maybe even Harry were planning on walking there to do some wading and maybe even go out in a rowboat. The water was shallow and it was a busy spot for families, especially in the summer.
As the train rattled on, I felt sicker and just then I saw Aunt Maud calling to us and asking how we were doing, especially me, since I probably looked pale with the upset stomach. I said I was okay but she passed us each a coke from the cooler bag she had with her. It did relieve my stomach and I guess my color came back into my face as Aunt Maud looked relieved. She was warned by my mother that I had stomach problems and threw up on a regular basis. Sometimes I would even faint if I forgot to eat.
This was my first time on a train and so I did not know what to expect, stomach wise. My father always complained of having an ulcer but mother would always poo poo that, as he seemed to be able to eat anything he wanted including fried foods and coffee.
So I was usually compared to him in an unfavorable way in more ways than one. He had left us for the last time a few months earlier. We kids were pretty happy when he finally left. A lot less bickering and even blows a few times. In those days, no one ever called the cops unless there were vast quantities of blood. Although my father wasn’t really a violent man, he was mostly lazy and did not want to support his family, let alone work.
Also, I was happy to get away from my younger sisters at home . They were constantly arguing and fighting with each other and when they got bored with that, they would pick on me. Sometimes I would haul off and swat one or both of them. Then they would tell mother and there would be hell to pay.
Mother usually would take their side and I would get a whipping with a switch from the bush in the yard, which hurt like the devil. But sometimes I would just take off for the day and not come back until nightfall. By that time mother would have forgotten what had happened.
Aunt Maud was a lot more fun than mother even though she had three kids to keep her busy. But of course she had a good husband who held down a good job, he was a Captain in the Coast Guard, making a very good salary. And they had a beautiful house and they got along very well.
So I was looking forward to having a good time at their home near the beach. Joseph and I got along great and Harry at ten years old was a nice easygoing kid. Oh yes, I was really going to enjoy this trip.
When we arrived at Aunt Maud’s house, we looked like refugees. We were all sweaty and disheveled and also hungry and thirsty. Joseph showed me to my room for the summer which was a nice, bright room with a lot of girly do dads scattered about.
Just having my own room was a luxury for me after sharing a room with my two sisters. I flopped on the bed and Joseph left to go and help his mother with some chores. I don’t remember falling asleep but when my eyes opened it was dark outside and I could smell a tantalizing aroma coming from the kitchen. I could also smell the ocean and I could not wait to get down there.
I jumped up and after washing my face and cleaning up a bit, I ran downstairs to see what was for dinner. There was no mistaking Uncle Joe’s booming voice and when he saw me his eyes lit up and he said, “How’s the little lady doing? Are you happy to be here?”
He could tell by my smile that I was and before I could answer, he picked me up and swung me around.
“Put her down,” Aunt Maud yelled, “she’s not used to the rough housing like the boys are.”
“Oh, don’t be an old killjoy,” he said.
And to me ,”You like it, don’t you?”
I was smiling from ear to ear, so he knew that I did.
We finally settled down around the dining room table and started in on the food which looked great, even though I couldn’t eat much. After dinner, we all packed into the car with Uncle Joe at the wheel to go for ice cream. I would find out that this was a weekly routine and I came to love it much as I loved everything about my new family.