Sponsored by [Magpie Tales]
I have been a huge fan of Norman Rockwell’s artworks for as long as I can remember, but I had an especially strong fascination for his Boy in a Dining Car. In fact, I even paid a premium for a large lithograph print of it to hang on my living room wall, and as I sat and stared for hours at a time, I wondered why it had such a hold on me.
Could it be the kindly expression upon the waiter’s face? What about the seriousness of the young man as he checked his bill? Surely it must be the other train going in the opposite direction that can be seen through the window that caught my attention?
No, none of those things rang any bells, but there was a memory of a story that my dad had told me long ago that lingered in the back of my mind. It was a story about when he first went to see if Stanford University might be a good fit for him, and much of that story was about a kindly black man, who had taken it upon himself to make sure that everything went well for my dad while he was riding on his train.
Now, his concern was actually unnecessary. For my dad was a child prodigy with an enormous intellect. Furthermore, he had a degree of wisdom far exceeding what a typical 14 year-old would possess. Proof of that is how much my dad truly appreciated the kindness of that waiter instead of feeling insulted.
Several years later, my dad bought the railroad, and it grieved him deeply that there were no employment records for his friend. For my dad wanted to place him in charge of passenger care for the entire line, but it was as if he had never existed as far as the previous management of the railroad company was concerned. Be assured that a thorough house-cleaning was instituted soon thereafter.
It was starting to really nag on me. For my dad’s story had to have had something to do with the painting, but how could it be more than a mere coincidence? After all, the boy in the dining car was supposed to be Norman Rockwell’s youngest son, Peter!
The loss of my sanity was steadily gaining momentum when a long forgotten part of my dad’s story leapt to the forefront of my mind, and it shook me to the very core of my being. For the forgotten part was about there often being another man sitting in the dining car whenever my dad went in. My dad had said that he would always be quietly sketching on a pad and puffing on his pipe, and that my dad had never went over to make his acquaintance. Although, the waiter seemed to know him well.
Whoa, could the boy in that dining car actually be my dad? The pieces of the puzzle sure seemed to fit, but with all of the resources at my dad’s disposal later on in his life, surely he would have sought out confirmation from Norman Rockwell—albeit merely for the sake of his family? Hey, it’s not like my dad would have been seeking any compensation, and he would have been well pleased to leave it as Peter being in the dining car instead of himself.
Okay, I suppose some mysteries are meant to stay as such, but that doesn’t mean that I have to like it. At least my fascination with the painting is no longer so puzzling, and I am happier than ever with having a signed print of it hanging on my living room wall.
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