The Love Train
The young woman leaned her head back against the frayed woven fabric of the seat and turned her head to the right so she could stare through the dusty window at the landscape flying by. In the late autumn season, it had all begun to look the same to her. She only knew that it was one mile closer to home and one mile further from the nightmare she had left behind. She was tired and drained emotionally. She tuned out the noise inside the passenger car and let her thoughts drift.
He had not even had the decency to look ashamed but only angry that she had embarrassed him. One hundred and one counts of adultery and the army chaplain's recommendation for the divorce had settled it quickly and decisively. Almost eight years of marriage and it was over in the sound of a pounding gavel and the signing of the divorce decree by the judge. It was 1944, the country was at war, and she was divorced! "The very next thing to being a harlot where I come from" she thought to herself. She had followed her mother's footsteps and forever earned her straight-laced, "you stay with'em no matter what" grandmother's disapproval.
She could just hear Granny's nasal-twanged voice saying, "Just like your mama...yes, you are! Well, don't think that your granddaddy and me are going to raise your two youngun's like we did your "daid" (dead) mama's. We're too old! Your mama only had you but you got two. I swear I don't know where we went wrong and you'uns just get divorced (de-vois-ed) just like that!"
The woman let out a long sigh and thought to herself, "You didn't have to live with him, Granny!" Words that the woman could think but she would never dare say out of "old-fashioned raising" respect for her grandmother. Her "daid mama" had done a lot things she wasn't raised to do but her mama had been happy and she intended to be as well! She also intended that her four year-old son and her two-year old daughter were going to be also!
At the thought of her daughter, she turned to glance in the seat next to her where Mary was suppose to be asleep. She had left Mary's brother, Ronnie, to stay with Granny because she could not afford the train fare for both children. Granny adored Ronnie but for some reason did not like the adorable but very stubborn, self-willed little Mary. She had easily agreed to keep Ronnie while her granddaughter was gone but not her great-granddaughter.
However, Mary was not asleep but bright-eyed awake and flirting! As precious as a Dresden China porcelain doll with flaxen blond curls, big sky blue eyes, and a peaches and cream complexion, the toddler was absolutely one of the most precocious children the woman had ever seen; even despite the fact of her own biased feelings because Mary was her child. Mary believed the whole world loved her and for the most part, she was pretty well right. It was so easy to fall in love with her sweet innocent beauty and her delightful happy disposition! She always wrapped people around her tiny little finger just as she seemed to have done this young Navy seaman that she was flirting with across the aisle to the next seats!
Mary had then noticed that her mother was staring at her and she raised her cherubic face to stare at the young woman and said in a voice like tinkling bells.
"Mama, he" she pointed at the young sailor," says I am cute." She flashed her mother an engaging smile and the woman felt her moodiness slip away in the loving delight she felt for her child.
"Well, honey, he is right." the woman answered. She then in turn raised her own face and came to eye level with the young man. She was startled when she felt her heart flip flop! He was as cute as Mary but in a very different way. Dressed in tailored serge Navy blues with his white crown cap cocked at a rakish angle on his light brown hair, he smiled back at the mother and his blue-grey eyes lit up like a light. Not too tall, judging from the length of his legs, but about six feet in height, and slender but not skinny, he was most pleasant to look at especially with that wondrous smile!
The young mother suddenly felt ill at ease with her thoughts, after all, she had only been divorced for two days but he was so precious, sort of like a sweet hound puppy with those big ears that stuck out on the sides of his smiling face.
"Well, now, I know where Mary gets her looks from...her mama." the sailor said in an all too familiar accent! "Yep, she sure is" he thought to himself as he studied the lovely young woman in her mid-twenties with a nice figure, dark gold blond hair and the beautiful same sky blue eyes as her daughter. If the mother was such a "looker", the little girl was going to be a "knockout"!
The young mother thought it was all too funny as she recognized it. Here she was half way across the middle plains of the country, bound for Chicago, and then home to Knoxville, Tennessee and what chances were they that she would meet a young seaman on leave from her own home state but there was no mistaking that Tennessee drawl. She laughed and then ask, "What part of Tennessee are you from?" she ask.
"How did you know?" he ask in surprise.
"Your accent. I can spot a boy from home always by that accent." she answered.
"From ______," he replied, naming a small town about sixty miles south of Knoxville. Then he continued, "My name is Chip...ya know, like the chip off the old block, 'cept I like to fancy myself to be nothing like my daddy! He is a farmer and I want to see the world so I joined the Navy. Well, yep, I sure have seen a lot of the world but most of it from the water and in battle but I have been to Hawaii. Great place even despite the damage at Pearl Harbor."
Then before she could say anything else, he looked ashamed and said in an apologetic tone, "Geez, I'm sorry! I didn't even ask your name or what part of Tennessee you are from. Mary here has been very informative but at two, she kinda isn't too full of information outside of her doll's name, her name and how big this train is. So you are?" Chip inquired.
"My name is Marie and we are from Knoxville." The woman answered, quite taken with his ease and his natural seemingly comfort with who he was. His openness and friendly manner were sure signs of why Mary had been flirting with him in her baby manner. "I really need to talk to that child about talking to strangers" Marie thought to herself but secretly she was glad that Mary had taken a liking to this "stranger".
Chip seemed glad to have a name and a place because he smiled like a mischievous little boy and invited. "Well, Marie, would you and little Mary here, like to have dinner with me in the dining car this evening and then maybe we can go out for awhile when we have that twenty-four lay over in Chicago. It is a great town, tho' I only been there once."
Marie thought about the quickness of his invitation but then she remembered her promise to herself that she was going to be happy! Smiling shyly but seductively (she hoped), she answered easily.
"Sure, why not! We would love to accept!"
And the rest is history, a true love story. They married in 1946 at the end of War World II after he was discharged from the Navy. They had two more children, both girls.