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Train stories

Footnotes: Thoughts from the margins of a mom's life

March 2014

Have I mentioned that my son loves trains? I'm not sure when it began, and I am not sure when it will end. For William every sighting of a train is something akin to a unicorn stepping lightly from a mythical wood. "Train!" he cries. We stop the car, occasionally, pulling over to a parking lot to best view the train's passage. We imitate the whistle. We identify box cars and tanker cars. And, of course, we play trains at home, linking together puzzle pieces of wooden track and hurrying a magnetized locomotive over the grooves. My imaginative son pretends to be a train, hustling around the house announcing, "There are box cars behind me. Look out!" Predictably I've found myself paying a lot of attention to trains, even when my son isn't by my side.

Such was the case when I was driving alone one night, under a full moon, running an errand. I drove down a busy street, and saw railway in the distance. A giant engine came into view and the whistle sounded. The train gleamed under the moon. A red light afforded me the opportunity to linger and watch, delighted. The next night when tucking my toddler to bed, I said, "Last night I saw a train in the moonlight." I told him about the big engine, the bright moon, the cloudless sky, my sense of wonder. And he got it, totally. What could be neater than a train in the moonlight? And now the "train in the moonlight story" has become part of the everyday dialog with my boy, the last thing he wants to hear before he falls asleep.

There's something wonderful about the way that having children will make you see the world afresh. Sights that once would have chugged by unnoticed become, in this new view, wonders to behold and share. They can even become legends, if only the legends of bedtime stories. My son loves trains, and when his enthusiasm will wane I cannot say. But I am beginning to love trains, too. I am beginning to create train stories, and to share them.

Tags: Footnotes, In This Issue

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