Thursday, November 17, 2005

The H.O.

Twenty years since the boxes, carefully packed and tied with twine, have been opened. The musty, metallic smell that begins to fill the room as bags are opened and objects removed attests to the passing of decades. My husband inspects each piece with care, reminiscing as he goes. “This engine here would be worth between sixty to a hundred dollars if you were to buy it today,” he informs me. It is at this point I question, given this information, “Are you sure you want to do this now?”

But he has waited for this moment for years. “Do you think the kids are big enough this year? Do you think we could put the train around the tree?” This year, after six Christmases, the answer is finally yes. With the proper care and monitoring, our children will be inducted into a magical piece of their father’s childhood, as he was, once, into his own father’s, and so on. Nostalgia is something no family should be without. Ours has an abundance, passed down through the generations. Which is why the boxes, after much scheming with his father, are now in our living room and my husband is somewhere circa 1978.

He holds one up—“we have a little red caboose!” That will excite our son, who, of course, is who this is all about. Really. I’ll remind him of that shortly. But for now, I allow my husband to play with his toys in our living room. He pulls more items out and looks, perplexed, at a tangle of red-orange wire for a moment before returning it to the bag. “It really IS for him,” he insists, as he discovers what I’m writing. And I mostly believe him. Mostly.

Our son, obviously, inherited his fascination with trains honestly. He is a child obsessed, his little wheels turning constantly. We’re driving home one night after dark, and my daughter is asking if grocery stores are open all night. We begin to discuss how some places that sell food are, indeed, open all night. “Why isn’t the train store open all night?” my son asks, out of nowhere. We are hiking one day, just a week ago, and my daughter points out to me the sunset, because “I know you like sunsets, Momma.” “I DO like sunsets,” I reply. “I like train sets,” he pipes in from the kid-carrier. Obsessed, I tell you.

So, I do believe this is motivated, in part, to please and excite a particularly coy two-and-a-half year old sleeping upstairs with Thomas the Train. The two-and-a-half year old who checks every time we get off the freeway on the status of the train bridge we go under to return home and reports to me, excitedly, what he finds, as if I can’t see for myself. The two-and-a-half year old who plays for hours with wooden track on loan from a friend and who will sob, broken-heartedly, tomorrow when we return the set to its rightful owner. But I know better than to believe this is his sole motivation.

The lid comes off the engine, the track having been laid carefully on the living room carpet. The moment has come. “Most of the couplers are still in really good shape,” he informed me earlier, but they are about to be put to the test. The engine lights for a moment, then sputters, then lurches forward. He tweeks it, repositioning it on the track, and it is off and running, much to his surprise. “I thought I’d have to do more to it than that--that's amazing!” Cars are coupled together and, viola, we have a train. I must confess it is a little exciting.

I chuckle. And then I smirk. Seventeen years I’ve known this man, and I’ve never seen these boxes. I knew they existed, the mythological trains in his parent’s basement, but now they have come to life for me, as they will for our children come Christmas morning. But more magical to me, for now, is the nine-year-old boy with the twinkling green eyes laying track in my living room, working intently on his model trains.


Karen said...

this brought me to tears! how wonderful.

lorie said...

Thanks, Karen!

Anonymous said...

Very touching !!!