On Trains and Childhood

Introduction

I’ve talked on my One Guy Outdoors page recently about how much tradition means to me and our family.  We aren’t bound by traditions, necessarily.  It’s just that when we find something that we enjoy doing, we tend to put it into a routine that becomes tradition from year to year.  One of those traditions is the Hobby Railroad Show at the Big E.  I don’t remember how we discovered it.  It was definitely during Liam’s Thomas phase.  Looking for something to do with a train obsessed preschooler during the long and gray months of December and January, we stumbled on the train show.  It didn’t hurt that it was near my birthday and I don’t often ask for anything for my birthday.

Those first years we went as a family.  It was even as recently as maybe 3 or 4 years ago that all five of us took the trip.  Last year or the year before, it was just the boys and I.  This year, the only one that was able to make the trip with me was Aiden.  Christine made plans for Quinn to do a “Cookies and Canvas” event put on by their school’s PTO.  Originally, Aiden was supposed to join him, but he backed out.  She suggested that he come along with me to the train show since I was a bit upset that it looked like we might not make it this year.  To my surprise, he said that he’d rather do that.

Journal

I started to hedge a bit this morning, saying things like that I didn’t want to pay $20 for two people to go since we used to pay $30 for 5 people to go and trying to push Aiden to go to the Cookies and Canvas.  He held steadfast that he didn’t want to go and wanted to go to the train show.  I finally relented as part of my newly found attitude of saying “yes, and…” when faced with a decision like that.  I’m glad that I did.

It started in the car ride.  When it is just me and one of the boys, I try to find podcasts that they will enjoy, too.  Aiden is a pop culture freak and he likes all of the current music, so I could have gotten away with the radio.  I, on the other hand, abhor most of today’s music, so I compromised with the podcasts again.  I chose the “Playing with Science” episode about soccer and the leftovers of an “Only a Game” episode about Gene Mingo, a football player that I had never know before hearing the episode.

He was only slightly interested in the soccer episode, but it was mainly because he was reading a book.  He did laugh a few times.  However, the Gene Mingo episode hooked him and he flipped off the radio when they reported on Mingo’s accidental shooting of his wife.  We talked about guns and the drugs that led to the accident.  It was a good talk.

After the episode, he agreed that it was compelling.  I told him how I like that show because it isn’t like most of sports media.  Chris told me that he was going to go off on sports media in his latest article and he didn’t hold back.  While Chris has a valid point about WEEI, ESPN, and much of sports media these days, that wasn’t exactly my point when talking to Aiden.  I only listen to two podcasts that qualify as sports, “Only A Game” and “Hang Up and Listen.”  “Hang Up” occasionally gets into the regular stories of the day, but they often give a fresh take.  “Only a Game” more regularly goes off the beaten track and tells compelling stories that I’d have never heard otherwise.  I like that.  Much like the Patriots, sports media just bores me.  I’m glad that Aiden was able to enjoy the show, too.

Aside from the ride, it was nice to have one on one time with Aiden.  I don’t know when the last time that happened.  As the boys get older, they become busier with friends and activities and it becomes more difficult to spend any time with them, never mind hours of uninterrupted time.  It was time that he volunteered, at the sake of spending time with his friends, and that makes it even more valuable.  Aside from that, it brought us together with a common interest.

This surprised me.  Aiden is a “cool kid” in the purest sense of the word.  He wants the latest sneakers, listens exclusively to popular music, wants to be with the in crowd.  I never expected that he would be the kid who became the one most interested in model railroads.  But, here we are.  He said that he really wanted a train set and even had plans for where he would put it.  In talking with Christine, I wondered out loud if it might end up being a Paddington 2 scenario where he eventually gets too cool for them and we’ll be left holding all of these expensive train cars.  But, she said that he asked for one for Christmas last year, but waited until the last minute to do so.

He will grow out of them eventually.  He may come back to them after he’s done with his teenage years and when he has kids of his own.  But, and this goes along with why I went to the train show with him even though I wasn’t feeling it initially, he is interested now.  I want to seize upon that interest and have something that we can have together.  Something that will let us hold on to his rapidly dwindling time as a kid for just a little while longer.

Well, that got a bit heavy there.  Sorry.  The show itself was fun and informative.  As soon as we walked into the first building, Aiden started looking at trains and I mentioned how they weren’t very expensive.  The guy at the booth started talking to us about the different kinds of trains.  I suspect that they don’t get much interaction from people outside of the community.  Other than kids who just want to see the trains, when someone comes in and shows a serious effort to enter the hobby, they go out of their way to explain things and welcome them.  We would do well to learn from that attitude, fellow nerds.

For the rest of the show, I was looking at various types of trains to figure out which one I want to get to let him try his hand at building.  Another couple of people made us feel very welcome and answered our questions.  We ended, as always, and as you may suspect, at a Lego display.  I wondered aloud if they still made the powered Lego trains.  He confirmed that they did, so that might be where we start.

Epilogue

I don’t know the last time that Aiden and I had one on one time that wasn’t interrupted by technology.  It was an experience that I won’t soon forget and hopefully it had the same effect on him.  As I stated earlier, you have kids and they are initially with you 24/7.  They get older and go off to school, meet other people, and get other interests.  You never know when that mythical “Cats in the Cradle” moment might happen, but you know it’s coming.

I’d like to put it off for as long as humanly possible.  We have plans to go to at least one hockey game over the next two weeks before the season ends.  I might just splurge and get tickets to both games because they have a buy one get on free deal going on now.  I think Christine might have gotten it via email because she bought the tickets.  A bit surprisingly (but perhaps not because it was Saturday night and college students have better things to do), the game wasn’t very well attended, so they’re pulling out all of the stops to get people to come.

Well, I’ll take advantage of their misfortune and get some time with Aiden as well.  People tend to only take a look at those around them during times of tragedy.  The Facebook posts “Hold your kids extra tight tonight and tell them you love them” only come after a terrorist attack or tragic fire.  I don’t understand why you wouldn’t do those things each and every night.  We only have a limited amount of time and don’t know when it’s up.  Tell the people you love them every single day and just do the damn thing.

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