As I grew older, my source of travel from Georgia to New York would be by plane instead of above-ground trains. We flew Delta. With my grandmother, it was always Delta. She would fly down to retrieve me and we would fly back together and my summers would be full of shopping, trips to the library, museums, swimming pools, local basketball courts, and shared visits with other members of my family.
I would find myself on the train to Harlem or Brooklyn with her. Whatever our day’s plans, it would coordinate between taking the train and the cab and I would be delighted to hang by my grandmother’s side as her traveling companion.
I loved the train the best, though. There was something mesmerizing to me during those years about being on a train underground. No one speaks. Everyone has something occupying their time. It was not uncommon to see people reading books or listening to music or the off-to-the-side person who smelled of scorched coffee and day-old hash browns.
On average, New York’s subway trains travel at about 17 mph and had an annual ridership of just over 1.72 billion in 2017. — Wikipedia
As you probably can imagine, my grandmother had a knack for finding two seats next to each other and I was to sit by her at all times. She was adamant about my safety, however, she wanted me to experience the real world of getting to where I needed to without depending on anyone else.
By the time I was fifteen years old, I was allowed to travel by train or cab with my friends from the neighborhood but within a certain time of day or night. Her rule was: “I have to get you back to your mother in one piece.” She stuck by this rule. I never disobeyed her curfew and could only stay out later if I was with my aunt (her youngest daughter).
I miss her wild spirit. Her uncanny ability to adapt to her surroundings instantly. Her calm and casual way of speaking her mind. Her incredible sense of fashion. It is often hard for me to travel sometimes because I still feel her near.
I fly and look to my left or right and something in the person next to me reminds me of her. I take a train and a woman may be wearing a perfume that smells similar to hers. Someone requests a drink for which she had an affinity. We pass by a bit of scenery that I know would have sparked her interest.
Perhaps she is still keeping watch over me after all these years. She did love a good trip and an even better travel buddy. I don’t know what I will do the moment she’s not conjured up during my travels. Having her near makes me feel safe — makes me enjoy getting from one place to another. However, I am fully aware of knowing how to travel because of her and this is something I will not forget.
A training bra shopping spree changed my heart— changed my life too.
Originally published in The Weekly Knob via Medium. The link shared is a friend link as this is a piece behind Medium’s paywall.