Erika MagnussonHonors 401 Seminar1 February 2013Dear Daddy,Mommy, brother and I are in a boxcar. The railroad track takes us where we don’t know.Remember when we used to play train and conductor together when I was a little girl? Iguess this train is not ours to conduct. The track used to take us to a better place together.We used to switch tracks, but you always had to help me pull the railroad switch. If Iwanted to switch tracks now, I couldn’t without you.I guess your number on your collar was just too different from mommies, brothers and Is.Don’t worry though… even if my number is different from yours you are still with me. Iwear my number on my collar just above the blue silk scarf you gave me!Mommy probably didn’t tell you yet, but when you get home you have to fix the leak inour ceiling. You’re the only one who can make the sunshine come out when it is raining.Mommy said her prayers at home before the boxcar. I heard her whispering them to Godwhen I was listening to the rain hit the bucket (mommy put a bucket below the ceiling tocatch the rain). Everything was the sound of rain before we left. Even if the hole weren’tin our ceiling it still would have all been rain. In the train window we saw a lake thatneeds rain just like our crops. It was a lake that I found on the map. I kind of know wherewe are. The lake was called Intermittent Lake because the rain only came sometimes. Theother times, the lake was a desert.Dad, I saw a desert! Have you seen one of those? I couldn’t see where the lake was, orhow far you could swim if it was there. I could only see white earth. The sun wasscorching it and must have taken the rain away. Maybe one day the sun will go back inthe clouds and we can swim in the lake together. I promise to wear my lifejacket, andthen you won’t worry about me, right?The people who lived by the lake must have not prayed for the rain to come this year.Because ‘God is always listening’ like you used to say daddy. Maybe they didn’t knowthe Lord like you and mommy do? So then, they would not have the choice to thank Godor Jesus Christ for the rain or to pray for it to come. I guess I’m like those people thoughtoo. Brother and me hear rain all the time…the sound stayed with us even on the train… Iguess it drowns out all the other sound. But this rain, it is starting to flood our ears andwe are drowning in it. I would rather be like those people at Intermittent Lake (or thedesert now) because God has taken the rain away. I know God can’t take this rain awayright now. We are flooded in the boxcar and I’m scared were going to drown. Dad, I wishyou were the conductor. I cannot switch tracks for mommy or brother and I can’t take therain away either…I’m sorry.I miss softball - you always told me I was your favorite pitcher. Dad, remember whenyou used to be my catcher every day? You were my favorite catcher. Your target was thebest to hit. You always told me to never lose my arm and mommy would tell you Ihaven’t… even though we’ve been riding this train for so long. I found a catcher that Ipretended was you. On the train they give us lemons and oranges. I practiced my throw
Erika MagnussonHonors 401 Seminar1 February 2013with a lemon because the orange was good to eat. I promise I’m trying to keep mommyand brother healthy and I wouldn’t put that good fruit to waste. I took that lemon in myhand like a softball, I felt its yellow rind like the red threads on a softball, and it was allthe same. I was back at the diamond with you when I threw the lemon out the trainwindow. I saw where it landed too, in a snarled trunk of blackened sage. Your glove wasblack so I imagined that it was you catching the lemon. I wanted to be the lemon - lost atfirst, but then found when I landed in your arms. I couldn’t be the lemon though. I leftyou behind in the desert. The train was still moving on the track and the blackened sagewas still with buried roots.I feel sick because the boxcars are rocking. I am going to vomit, but I won’t because youcan’t rub my back to make me feel better. Other people threw up though. It is crowded inthe cars and it smells like vomit and oranges. It doesn’t smell like lemons though. Iimagine all of the peoples (lemons) are tangled in the blackened sage of their past.They keep telling us to keep the shades down. If you were a man standing outside thetrain, you couldn’t see mommy, brother or me. You would see a train with blackwindows and we would be so close without you or me knowing. The train would passyou by and you would pass us by. We would be farther from being a family togetheragain. Dad, maybe you are in the dark too. Mommy, brother and I are hidden behind theshades - naked only to darkness … where we are missing from the world we used toknow.Mommy doesn’t close her eyes in the darkness. The shades of the train always go down,but the shades of her eyelids never do. Maybe yours don’t either. I think she doesn’t closeher eyes because she knows she can imagine you. Mommy still loves you Daddy.Brother still likes horses a lot. Last summer we stayed in the old horse stalls in the stablesbehind the racetrack. I think that is where he started to love the big animals. But I don’tget why? We were like horses there. We washed our faces in the tin troughs they drankfrom and we slept on the same straw. Maybe this is why he loved them… because he was‘closer’ to them…living a horse’s life. Or maybe it is because he knows a warrior herousually rides a horse- did he want to be the warrior hero for momma and I? Or, did hedream of you coming for us on a horse? To rescue us? Maybe it was because the horsesgot to leave the stalls and we didn’t?Outside the train window and a long ways away from the train, brother knew there was awide empty field where nothing but sagebrush grew. The wide empty field was for thehorse’s freedom, but the sagebrush was for brother. If brother was a lemon and he wasstuck in the deserts sagebrush …maybe a horse would have carried him away.Dad, I have a confession to make, the blue scarf you got me from Paris isn’t what I reallywanted. What I really wanted was perfume. I used to think that because you bought me ablue scarf the last time you went to Paris… and the time before that… I wouldn’t caremuch for a blue scarf anymore. Now, the blue scarf you gave me is all I ever wear. Theedges of the blue scarf are frayed and worn… brother pointed that out to me. But I like it
Erika MagnussonHonors 401 Seminar1 February 2013that way- it is like I have been wearing you for a long time now. Dad, thank you for thenew blue silk scarf and Serenade perfume for my birthday. The old blue silk scarfremained worn and frayed, yet unraveled… and when it did unravel I would have anotherfrom you. The blue silk scarf will never truly unravel from my neck and you are withme… for however long you are gone.I had to use my scarf for brother. He was sick and I gave it to him to cough in. I hope thatis okay. I would love another scarf (even if it is the same one) if you ever travel again.Dad, here we all have to play something (real or not). I used to like playing house or dollswith you, but I don’t want to play anymore. I just want to be me.We wait for the day to be over here. Do you wait to? Maybe brother was right… weshould be more like the horses. We could gallop away together when the shades aren’tdown anymore. We could find a new home where there are no train tracks. The horseswill take us where we need to be even if the shades are down.P.S. Daddy I’m sick of camping out. When will I get to go home? When will we get to gohome again?P.P.S. I left more then the lemon in the desert. You used to tell me about a message in thebottle, and if we were at sea I would have left you a message in a bottle…but we weren’tat sea. Chu, Chu! Chu, Chu! Instead I wrote my name on a 6 of clubs card and slipped itout the car window. Who is it that will find my message on a card in a desert? Only youdaddy…only you.P.P.P.S. I am asking this for brother: when will we see him (he, who is our rescuer) andwill he ride in on an enormous white horse by the sea?I love you Daddy.For now… I need to let the shades fall down. Maybe soon they will open and I will seeyou.Now is not our time to play catch again.Love your daughter.