Jill Talbot’s column, The Last Year, traces the moments before her daughter leaves for college. It ran every Friday in November, and returns this winter month, then will again in the spring and summer.
Trains thundered through that town, behind the woods that bordered our backyard. I’d stand at the kitchen sink and watch out the window, catching only flashes of the cars through crowded branches. I envied the train’s travel, imagined some town down the line and wondered if I’d been there before. It always felt as if I had. Those trains rumbling through northern New York all passed by midmorning, leaving the afternoon to rest quiet in their absence. I remember snow falling in diagonal lines, the woods silver-gray.
My daughter, Indie, liked to wander those woods behind the house we rented. She would have been ten or eleven then, her blonde hair a bob. She’d take a backpack and a walking stick with her, and I’d open the back door and call after her, remind her to watch the time, the light, and in winter, the snow’s depth. She’d turn and wave as the woods drew a curtain behind her. Once she came back to tell me about a pond with beaver dams, and another day she stomped snow from her boots in the breezeway while sharing her discovery: railroad tracks.
Not long after she was born in February of 2002, her father began searching online for an old truck. The truck idea was a part of a slow shift, like the guitar he learned to play, the thick beard he grew, the flannel shirts he started ironing before leaving for his maintenance job at a resort, where a woman in the event-planning office paid him just enough attention. When he found a blue 1978 Chevy C20 Bonanza with a white camper, he caught the Amtrak in Denver and rode it to King Street in Seattle. It took him almost two days to get there, longer to drive back. When he called from the station in Washington, he sounded far away, but not the kind of far I could measure by miles. Read More