I don't tell her often enough or quite well enough, but I really do love my Mama.
She and my sister Susie are "one-of-a-kinds"--sweet with a backbone of steel, sensitive and blunt, they're everything to me.
I don't know what got me thinking about this today, but some of my fondest childhood memories come from riding the Central of Georgia Railroad's Nancy Hanks from Barnesville to Atlanta.
Every now and then Mama and I would board the train at the Barnesville Depot and make the scenic haul to downtown Atlanta. Once off the train we'd go to since-forgotten places like Rich's, Davison's, and the S&W Cafeteria.
It was on the Nancy Hanks that I saw a steward in the Grill Car pour a six-and-a-half ounce Coca-Cola (the only genuine Coke) into a glass without producing any foam or spilling a drop. This was done by flipping the bottle completely upside down almost to the bottom of the glass and removing it as the Coke filled it up.
It was Ice-Cold, delicious, and I haven't had any Coke since that tasted as good.
As for the glass-pouring Coke trick, don't try this at home. I tried it to impress my children, I didn't, and Coke is really sticky when it's all over the glass, the counter, and the floor.
I can still smell the aroma of burning diesel, hear the conductor say "All 'boooarrrrd!" and feel electric motors whirring, causing the clackety-clackety-clack on the iron tracks as we sped through places like Aldora, Milner, Griffin, Southside, Jonesboro, and finally rolling into Atlanta. Whistles blowing all the way.
We'd walk from Terminal Station up to Rich's. I can't remember one thing Mama bought there, but I do remember riding the Pink Pig at Christmastime and falling in love with books while at Rich's.
The Charl-Mont restaurant was in Davison's, just up Peachtree Street from Rich's. Probably the best hamburger I ever had came from there, and Mama drank coffee from the first clear-glass coffee cup I'd ever seen. She didn't even "saucer" it before drinking it. My Mama, what a lady.
Sometimes we'd cross the Mezzanine at Rich's (site of Atlanta's Great Christmas Tree) and go the the S&W Cafeteria. The only thing I remember eating there was dessert--well, not really dessert. I had some cake with whipped cream on it (real whipped cream, not some pasty-foamy mess out of a spray can or tub). I told Mama I thought I could eat a bowl of that stuff and she got the waiter to bring me some.
Food for thought--not only can you NOT drink an entire gallon of milk in an hour (don't ask), you also CANNOT eat a bowl of genuine whipped cream. I know this.
At the end of the day we'd get back on the train and watch the sun set on the trip back to Barnesville. I'd rest my head on the best pillow I've ever known--Mama's shoulder--and sleep all the way home.
Terminal Station was demolished in 1970, Amtrak took over the railroads, and the rest, as they say, is history.
But I can still see the horseshoe seal on the engine car of the Nancy Hanks. And I still have my memories...and my Mama.
But oh, for one more train ride.