Family Portrait

By Laura S. Distelheim

April 15, 2019

Family Portrait

Yesterday, when I was riding the train north from Chicago back to the suburb where I live, I happened to look up from the newspaper I was reading just as the tracks veered up alongside the back of a faded brown brick building, where I saw two children seated at a kitchen table in one of its windows, with their homework spread out before them and their mother standing close behind them, leaning over, pointing to something on one of the pages. In that instant that the train clattered past, all three of them reached out, as if in one motion, without even pausing in what they were saying, it seemed, to steady the papers, the books, the pencil boxes, the glasses of milk that had started to slide. It was nothing, really. Just a flash of an image and then I was hurtling onward and they were far behind me, and yet there was something about that image that made it stay with me all the way home.

All the way home and all the way to this moment, in fact. Like a song that I can’t seem to get out of my head. The way they all reached out together automatically like that, the three of them, there in their home inside a building that looks like a sigh with a roof, where a parade of faces blurs past in both directions outside their window day and night and their kitchen table dances a jig several times every hour to a tune composed by the Chicago & Northwestern Railway. The way they all reached out together like that, the three of them, holding on.

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