• 14 February 2021: A Valentine Memory


    The Trenton railroad station is a place extremely hard to find amid a maze of narrow highway exits and small, nearly hidden signs once you do truly exit, belying its function as an accessible public facility. Once you get there, parking facilities are insufficiently marked--you don't know there's very short-term availability so that you can walk the passenger in and help carry luggage and hug/kiss good-bye.

         But once you know the place, it serves its purpose. There is a high crime rate in Trenton and so the following anecdote brings the station to life as a hospitable place, if not a nurturing one.

         First, I went there alone at night, when I could still drive at night, to pick up my daughter, who had two large suitcases in tow. We carried them out to my car, which was parked in the short-term area, and loaded them up, so I thought. Now Route 1 North is extremely easy to find so we were soon on it.

         Then I discovered we'd forgotten to load the second suitcase. A U-term followed. We assumed rapid theft. My daughter kindly reassured me that only routine jeans and tops were involved, nothing earthshakingly indispensable.

         When we got back, the suitcase was indeed gone. What do do but report the theft, admittedly abusurdly? I phoned the station and was told there were no police there.

         No police? In Trenton at night in a place I stereotypically considered dangerous? I hurled some objections but gave up and called the Trenton police, who corroborated the absence of their officers.

         And so we just sat down on the pavement of the empty lot, waiting for an officer to show up. Again my daughter reassured me it was no big deal. But we waited.

         "You're the best daughter a mother could ever have," I told her, amazed that she wasn't upbraiding me for my negligence.

         After about ten minutes that seemed a lot longer, a police car pulled up. I approached it. So did an older woman. We let her go first.

         "Officer, I'm just an old lady," she said. "Waiting to meet another old lady who is extremely upset because the train is late. I parked in that illegal spot." She pointed to a space slightly out of the way, in the pitch dark. "She's really upset."

         "I won't ticket you,"said the officer good-naturedly.

         We were touched. Then I repeated our plight to him, the missing suitcase, and assumed he'd file a theft report. We followed him back to his car and he opened the trunk.

         There was my daughter's suitcase!. We were both ecstatic. I gave him a bear hug that embarrassed both of us. Somebody had to, my daughter later affirmed, to my relief. No criticism of my abrupt spontaneity.

         Then back to the car we went, dragging the suitcase.

         I think back often on these unremarkable events, cherishing them both in the context of mother-daughter high points and the good feelings traded in a surprising environment.

         The vision of the suitcase left behind in the empty parking lot says so much to me, as does its rescue.

         Trenton at night had become just any folksy small town, as all such places can be.