Monday, October 10, 2011

Away We Go in a Cloud of Dust...

 Chapter IV


A half-dozen swarthy men are at the rail-way station to receive us,--runners from the hotels shouting the merits of their respective houses. We choose the Hotel du Nil, take an omnibus, see our baggage put on a little four-wheeled truck drawn by a diminutive donkey and away we go in a cloud of dust up a wide street, passing through the donkey and camel market, where large droves of those cheerful and solemn animals are exposed for sale. We pass beneath tall palms and wide-spreading sycamores, where a crowd of Arab hucksters are crying their wares; meeting camels laden with stone, timbers, bundles of sugar cane, bales of cotton, and boxes of goods; donkeys with bunches of green clover on their backs; panniers of oranges, or great stone water-jars, and driven by lively, bare-legged urchins; stylish carriages of Parisian manufacture, drawn by spirited horses with monograms and crests on the panels; fleet footed boys running ahead and shouting, "Chemullac! chemullac!" -- "Get out of the way!  get out of the way!" 

From Our New Way Round the World [1869] by Charles Carleton Coffin
       chapter 4, p 32-33
Mr. Coffin was an American journalist, Civil War correspondent, author and politician.

"Away we go in cloud of dust!", the phrase that sprang forth from Mom's mouth whenever the car pulled into the road on our way to anywhere, dances through my mind in these anniversary days of her death. I wonder where she came up with the phrase and kick myself for never asking. I would have needed to inquire long before her death because in her last years, she made up what she couldn't remember.

Today I searched the internet for books or other references for the phrase "away we go in a cloud of dust". I found nothing in the Bible where so many of her favorites bore origin. Could she have possibly read this passage above or the entire book for that matter?  She knew American History inside and out and read prolifically. Historical fiction was a favorite. Who knows?

She may have invented the phrase. To Mom leave-taking in an automobile was always an adventure, be it wonderful or plagued by worry. Leaving in a cloud of dust implied we were on-the-move, seat-belts buckled, peeling out, moving right along, and in our wake, leaving the dust of the past. 

Do I have it correct, Mom? 

A year ago, depending on how you look at the days and dates, we were sitting at her bedside, listening to her erratic breath, encouraging her with loving remarks, comforting each other and knowing that the end was close. Close and inevitable, her first steps on death's wondrous, yet ultimately lonely journey, unfolding.

The next day, when Mom died, I fulfilled my promise to her. I watched as her body left the home, carefully and lovingly placed in a vehicle that pulled out into the road, down the block and around the corner out of my sight. Her being, long departed from her body, had become the amazing, beautiful cloud of dust.


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