I have taken the last train to childhood. In that childhood station lives the music of the Monkees, especially Last Train to Clarksville. The song had a heartbeat-sound I flattened my anxious wings to; the beat of rain, train stations, morning coffee kisses, men, the world of urgent love, loss, friendships— reasons to grow up, and stay on Earth. When I was five, we drove 3,000 divorced miles away from my father in Pennsylvania. I loved my father, then, and he loved me and I worried about his broken heart. We landed in Santa Barbara California. And I must go/And I don’t know if I’m ever coming home. No cousins, no aunt and uncle, no grandparents to visit. I sent them postcards of my beautiful new land. Pictures of palm trees lined up like chorus girls. Huge waves and white beaches. Bikinied women the color of the dark pine furniture we left back home.
My mother went to work full time in real estate, a career which was new to her. We lived in different rentals, I attended five elementary schools, had severe social shyness. Those were the years every boy made me blush, and my mother believed that UFOs had landed in our back yard. My talented and much-older sister, then in her twenties, became a TV actress— she would bring movie-star buddies to our house for dinner. Half embarrassing, half wonderful, actors and our messy rental home, and the flea-ridden dogs. We watched my sister on TV, cheered for her and for us all. We laughed and worried. We fought a lot. As a teenager, I became wild to make my mother stop worrying about me so much. I'll be waiting at the station/we'll have time for coffee-flavored kisses/And a bit of conversation.When my mother died recently, in October, 2013, I listened to "Last Train to Clarksville" again. This time, I knew I had really taken the last train home: I can't hear you in this noisy/Railroad station all alone.