Bittersweet: Afternoon at the East Anglia Transport Museum

Carlton Colville, Lowestoft, Suffolk; Saturday

Maybe it was the sunshine and summery weather in the east of England today; maybe it was the sound of a trolley car bell and gravel crunching under my feet; or maybe it was just an understandable, albeit an I-should-have-anticipated-this, rush of memory mixing sorrow and joy.

I started the day looking forward to a pleasant outing with Clive and his father, never thinking that the day’s activities would trigger the emotions they did.    

Trams. Trolleys, and Trains   

Clive’s father, Jack, selected the destination for today’s excursion:  the East Anglia Transport Museum.  Jack is almost 89 years old and has a keen interest in vehicles.  In his younger years, he and his wife, who died in 2004, traveled on short and long motorbike holidays; he rode a bicycle around his town until last year, when he had an accident and reluctantly stopped riding to weekly church suppers; and he still owns two vintage automobiles, one of which he drives to a major supermarket every Friday and the other of which joins the first in the annual Ipswich to Felixstowe car rally.

I’m not a vehicle expert, but I have spent many days and hundreds of hours in the U.S. at the Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, Maine. 


Memory Joggers

As we walked around the Suffolk museum today, I was pulled into the place of memory by normal activities often seen at train and trolley museums:

·   dedicated, friendly volunteers without whom the place wouldn’t exist

·   a variety of vehicles in various states of repair, with some beautifully restored and going out for rides, and others awaiting funding for restoration

·   visitor groups of families with young children, or retirees who enjoy reminiscing about their experiences of an earlier era

·   the constant crunch of gravel under the feet, in exhibition sheds, along the tracks, and in the parking lot


It Gets Personal

Today my thoughts moved quickly to remembrance of personal times that are no more.

When my son was growing up in the U.S. (he’s now 23), we spent the last two weeks of every August at Goose Rocks Beach in Kennebunkport, Maine.  This was a relatively long break for my husband and me from our corporate jobs, and we spent most of it unwinding and relaxing on the beach, riding bikes, and enjoying family time with our son and my stepson, who joined us on the weekends.

In addition to the beach, we discovered the Seashore Trolley Museum.  Our son loved it, and it became a near-daily destination; my husband and I alternated taking our son each afternoon.  Sometimes we rode bikes there, along New England’s peaceful back roads.  We became very familiar with each vehicle at the museum, got to know some members of the staff, and each year appreciated the progress that had been made in the restoration of certain cars, or the extension of the tracks.


After the Museum, Sunset  

In Kennebunkport, Maine, we spent mornings at the beach, one or both of us took our son to the Trolley Museum in the afternoon, and in the evening we all returned to the beach.  We stayed until that magic time of day when the evening light gets brilliant, then starts to fade, and then we walked back to our rented cottage before it got dark.

Today, Clive and I spent the afternoon with his father at the East Anglia Transport Museum, then had a cup of tea and drove the one hour return trip to Ipswich.  It was still warm, and the that brilliant late afternoon light was starting to fade over the meadows and marshes of the Suffolk countryside.

I looked out the car window and watched the sun setting here on the coast of the North Sea in 2008, and thought about the sun setting on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean in Maine in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.    


Moments in Time  

How do the years pass by so quickly?  As I noted in Living with a Brit, my husband, Gary, died in August, 2003.  I met Clive a little over two years later, in September, 2005.

Being in Kennebunkport heightened my feeling I was the luckiest woman in the world to be with Gary, who was not only a wonderful partner, but also a great father, spending time with his son at the Seashore Trolley Museum.

Today, being in Carlton Colville heightened my feeling I’m the luckiest woman in the world to be with Clive, who is not only a wonderful partner, but also a great son, spending time with his father at the East Anglia Transport Museum.

Moments of grace happen at the most unexpected times.  Today I was grateful to the Universe for reminding me I can feel sad and happy at the same time, while walking with Clive and his father alongside the trolley bus tracks.


Honouring Fathers and Sons

I have many pictures of my late husband and son at the Seashore Trolley Museum, but none with me on this trip. 

I wish I could post two father-and-son-at-the-trolley-museum photos side by side, but since that’s not possible, I’ll share this one of Clive and his father from today.

Father and Son, East Anglia Transport Museum, England

Father and Son, East Anglia Transport Museum, England

5 Responses

  1. Thanks for this personal post Carolyn – it is extremely touching.
    It reminds us to treasure every moment, every day. Memories are being created all the time and we never know when they will resurface and how they may help us, or others, get through new circumstances at a future time.

  2. Whenever I’m back in the States and hear a train whistle I get the strangest feeling-a mix of longing and nostalgia. It really touches a cord in me.

  3. Thanks for your comments, Mrs. Chipndale and Linda.

    Trains and those special feelings do seem to go together.


  4. This is a really beautiful post, Carolyn. And to think you wrote it on the road! You have experienced great joy and great pain in your life, and your ability to balance those two and sally forth with your love for life is so inspiring.

    It’s a good reminder to ALL of us to take the time to ‘smell the roses’ . . .or hear the crunch of bicycle tires on the way to the transport museum.

    You are a very lucky woman, and I don’t mean that blithely. To have been loved in one lifetime by two men as noble and loving as Clive and Gary. That’s not to take anything away from the pain of losing Gary and of his suffering, but how lovely that love blossomed again – and with someone who does not at all feel diminished by your memories, but understands that that is a part of what makes you the wonderful caring person you are.

    I’m rattlling on about things I don’t know about, but I’m so moved by your sense of appreciation. As I said, we should all be more mindful of our blessings.

  5. Kim, thank you! I am indeed very lucky and appreciate your kind and thoughtful comment.

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