Welcomes and bon voyages linger in the memory

Trips: A traveler appreciates the process of saying hello and goodbye.

July 31, 1999|By Jacques Kelly

THERE IS A FINE art to being received and welcomed at the beginning of a trip and then, at its end, being bid goodbye.

At this time of the year, when each weekend brings traffic arteries clogged with travelers, I'm reminded of ceremonies surrounding these goings and comings.

Only this past weekend, as I emerged from an Amtrak coach, my sister Ann somehow knew at precisely what spot in an eight-car train I'd be. She had her three children all dressed in sunsuits, the twin girls in their stroller, their 3-year-old brother calling out my name. Her husband had the video camera ready.

This merry little band beside the railroad tracks was a sight for any traveler and set the tone for a jolly summer weekend.

In the 1950s, when I was the age of my nephew, we began the get-out-of-Baltimore ordeal with buckets of fanfare. For what seemed like hours on a Saturday morning, we carried the cartons and suitcases from the cellar into the station wagon.

I am sure the whole neighborhood -- where rowhouses and apartments shattered any notion of privacy -- spied on this act. If nothing else, it made for good neighborhood theater.

Right at the minute when my Uncle Jacques was ready to put his key in the ignition, the send-off started. Our immediate neighbors, the Hooppers, emerged on their back porch. They waved white handkerchiefs. They wished us well. As the car rolled down the Guilford Avenue alley, Mr. Hoopper rolled up the morning paper, made a megaphone and spoke his goodbye salute.

At the end of the summer -- always a dead, hot day when Baltimore looks its worst in comparison to sand dunes, sunsets and ocean -- we came back.

To add to the misery, there was no gala arrival, though there were quiet compensations.

Our neighbor to the north was Dorothy Croswell, who then lived in the third-floor apartment. She knew our date of return and, using her house key, popped into the family kitchen.

Even though she personally detested vegetable soup, she fired up the Oriole range and had a pot of it ready (strictly homemade, of course) along with a couple of cinnamon cakes.

That act of neighborly kindness sat very well with my family, and I think a Hutzler Brothers leather handbag went Dorothy's way for her August birthday that year.

On the weekends when Dorothy arrived via a clogged Carolina Trailways bus from Baltimore to visit us, we had a large welcoming committee ready for her and her many suitcases at the Rehoboth Beach bus depot. To add drama to the event, Dorothy was invariably the last person off the bus, thereby giving the impression that she perhaps had missed her connection.

Departures and arrivals can be more emotional than people admit. I will always associate the deep, low rumble of a huge Pennsylvania Railroad electric locomotive with the day my O'Hare cousins left Baltimore for a new permanent home outside Boston.

As the train shook the brick-lined platform, my stomach groaned with the recognition that part of the family soon would be 400 miles away.

We waved, of course, but as the train slipped into the tunnel at Greenmount Avenue, the realization came that they would be leaving Baltimore.

Pub Date: 7/31/99

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