Over the two weeks, Meredith would often find Ma crying while she was frying the eggs for breakfast or sweeping the dirt floor. Meredith knew her Ma was sad but she didn’t know what to do to make it right. She was only 12. What could a 12 year old do? There wasn’t much to do in this town but maybe, once she got to St. Louis and talked to her Ma’s cousin and checked out the town, maybe then there would be something to do. For now, she just kept helping out as much as she could.
The day finally arrived for their departure. The entire family made the three mile hike into town and the station to see them off. Henry helped Meredith by carrying one of the bags. He was quiet and subdued. He understood what was happening. Fanny did not understand but she felt the tension and quiet and so she plodded along with everyone else. The twins did not understand and they galloped and jumped and ran all the way to the station. This was a great adventure for a three year old, a train ride. Baby Claire sat contentedly on Ma’s hip all the way to the station. She cooed and laughed at the antics of the twins. The solemness of the situation did not penetrate their young lives.
As Meredith climbed the platform and waited with the children, Ma bought the tickets with the money her cousin had sent. Meredith knew she was probably going to cry and her mother was probably going to cry. Meredith had held it together these past two weeks but the actual goodbye was going to be too much for her. Her eyes were already welling up with tears and her nose was running. She pulled her handkerchief out of her rolled up sleeve and swiped quickly at her face. She didn’t want Ma to see her. She didn’t want to cause Ma any more pain. She needed to be brave so Ma could be brave. Meredith knew she needed to get to St. Louis. She had managed to convince herself, over the last two weeks, that the solution to all her problems lay in St. Louis. She just had to get there and figure out what it was.
Her Ma came up on the platform with the tickets and they all picked everything up and got on the train. Her Ma made sure that the twins were settled, or as settled as they would get without being asleep, and made sure that Meredith knew where their luggage was kept and that they had the basket of food they had prepared for the journey. When her Ma had fussed as much as she could, they sat around talking about nothing in particular until the whistle blew and the conductor came through the cabin shooing all non-ticket holders off the train. Ma talked to him for a moment, gesturing at her children and Meredith knew it was her last attempt to make sure they were taken care of. Her heart swelled and the tears began. Ma gave the twins each a quick hug and then came and hugged Meredith.
“I know you’ll be fine Meredith,” she said into her daughter’s hair while she hugged her. Her Ma then held her firmly by both arms and looked right into her eyes, “Meredith, I want you to know that I love you so very much and that I am going to miss you more than any words I can tell you. Please remember me,” she choked out before she grabbed Claire back from Henry and walked out of the train.
Henry hugged Meredith and told her he loved her in his ten year old boy way and Fanny hugged her tightly until Henry grabbed her hand and yanked her off the train. Meredith and the twins waved to their family who was being left behind and she wondered, for just a moment, if this would be the last time she would ever see them, but quickly thrust that thought from her mind. She wondered instead on what the solution to this problem would be and how would St. Louis present it to her.