By the time I was 10, I was convinced I had a train set unequaled. There were tracks running through countryside with a barn, tractor and wagon, cows, sheep, pigs and chickens, mountains and a tunnel, a sprawling city with a church, lighted homes, a motel, roads and factories.
I remember turning out the light in my room and turning on the lights of the miniature city and watching my train with its little headlight travel through countryside and mountains and the city. Around and around it would travel. I would play until my mother would yell, “Robert, turn off that train now and go to sleep!”
By mid-adolescence I had enough of toys such as trains, so I carefully packed away the parts, thinking that one day the interest might return. And, indeed it did.
When my two children, Amy and Drew, finally passed through their demolition phases — you know, when children try to take everything apart – clocks, radios, books, model trains — I carefully unpacked the old train and pieces of scenery and began building an even bigger and better train set for Amy, Drew and Daddy.
We had just about everything imaginable — fire hydrants, tennis court, swimming pool, roads, parking meters, street lights, fenced-in fields, a country church with the graveyard out back, sheep on the hillside, pigs, cows, horses, mules, a school and playground with children at play, traffic lights that really change from red to yellow to green.
We even had an accident where someone ran a red light, with two wrecked cars, an ambulance, police, and a little guy being carried away on a stretcher. My son loved the little dog peeing on a fire hydrant best.
With great delight, I remember how Amy, Drew and I would turn out all the lights in the room and turn on the lights of the miniature city and watch our trains with the little headlight travel through countryside and mountains and the city. With delight, I watched the dancing eyes of my children that seemed to reflect another day when I traveled the same tracks as a child.
Again, the train is unpacked, preparing for the next departure. This departure is scheduled for winter 2011. Our first grandchild, Cole Everett, will be 18 months and by then he will be ready to start learning the controls. I’ve already built the table and started working on the layout. My plans are to take my time and build the best train set yet using pieces that now span three generations.
Why do I love trains so? If you have ever traveled by train, you know that getting there isn’t really the goal. Trains are hardly ever on time. But who cares? What is important is not the destination, but the journey. Mile after mile, soaking in passing scenery from the observation car, the dining car, or your personal seat, you are reminded of this.
Sadly, too often we focus on getting there, arriving, finishing. Such a focus can rob us of the daily happenings where the true joy of life is experience.
As you travel, enjoy the trip. There is so much to take in.