Thursday, September 28, 2006

Playing with trains with my daughter

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."
Ferris Bueller (played by Matthew Broderick)
Ferris Bueller's Day Off, 1986

Yesterday morning, I took our daughter to the dentist. As seems to have become our tradition, we had an adventure along the way.

First, some background: London is a city of railroad crossings. The one along our route was just before a stop sign. Since there's only room for one car behind the stop sign, I always come to a full stop before the tracks and wait for the car ahead to clear. Few things terrify me more than the prospect of sitting astride the tracks and having the bells ring, the arm come down, and a ten-million-kilogram freight train barrelling down on the car. No sirree.

So I stopped before the track and waited. And the bells began to ring. My first instinct was to stick the car in park because I knew we'd be there for a while. I also made a mental note to call the dentist's office to let them know we might be late.

Then I stopped caring about time when I heard squeals of excitement from the back seat. My nine-year-old daughter, normally so fashion-conscious, popular and cool, had up until today never been first in line at a train crossing. It was a new experience for our little girl.

So I opened all the windows, killed the CD, and we tried to predict which side the train would come from. She correctly guessed the left, then sat enthralled as a fast-moving train whipped by just a couple of meters in front of our bumper. We tried to figure out what was inside the sleek steel cargo carrying-cars, and eventually figured that it was carrying new cars. She marvelled at how, safely ensconced in the middle of a cushy minivan, she still could feel the ground shake.

Almost as soon as it began, it was over. The last car whooshed past and the arms went back up. The bells stopped ringing as the speeding train receded in the distance and we crossed the now-empty track. We excitedly chatted about trains for the rest of the trip and arrived at the dentist's office just on time.

I feel sorry for those who are in so much of a rush that they always cross ahead of the train. I feel privileged that I got to experience that small moment with a little girl who won't always be enthralled with the front row seat at a railroad crossing.

Your turn: What makes moments like this so meaningful? Is it possible to make magic out of the ordinary? How?


Hen Jen said...

I think these moments can become magical because they are usually so common-place. When you stop to notice, observe and experience you seem to slow time. Almost a god-like ability we rush over mostly. I treasure these moments because not only do I slow time, but I go back in time and experience something for the first time through my child's eyes. I have imprinted a memory/experience/feeling that she will now be able to use as a reference for other like experiences. All in all, pretty cool. The best bonus of these magical taking the time to slow down and experience, I am also savoring this fleeting moment of my child's childhood. I figure these moments will make it last longer. Gosh, have I made any sense?

thanks for sharing such a nice moment.

Jenny in Ca

Anonymous said...

Wow, Carmi, what a nice story. I love people who stop to appreciate the little things. I think moments like these are so special because they're unexpected - our lives are so busy and regimented that when something slows us down unexpectedly, we are forced to stop and simply enjoy.

~A~ said...

Kids have the magic, we're just blessed that they help us remember we had it too.

Shan said...

I'd just like to say that trains will always have their charm. I don't think your little girl will necessarily grow out of it. Maybe, she'll just contain her enthusiasm. The world is wonderful when you aren't rushing everywhere. :)

Azgreeneyes said...

Magic is from ordinary things, but it comes from seeing these things in a new way. Kids are amazing in that respect. They can see the same thing 5 times, and each time, they notice something new about it. And as parents, if we take the time to look with them instead of saying yeah, yeah honey, we'll see new things each time.

We're still trying to be first in line at the train tracks, both my kids love to watch them go by. We also have to open the windows every time we drive past the 'goat field' so that they can say hello and good bye to the goats.

kenju said...

It is meaningful because the days when little girls can be so excited over something so mundane will come to a close all too soon! Cherish the moments of excitement, Carmi. Her demeanor will become one of ennui when she reaches her teens.

Star said...

Good for you Having raised 3 girls, I can attest that there are the big moments, prom, graduation and weddings, and the little moments. The other day my middle daughter was telling us how she took a bandaid off her son. Careful as she tried to be he wouldn't allow her to remove a second one. Her younger sister said, "tell him you'll count to 3, and then take it off on 2. You Dad did. " See what they remember?

sage said...

Nice post. I too am the one who ususally takes my daughter to the dentist and we both love trains---she's seen plenty when we were out west, but now the town we now live in no longer has rails running through it.

Rachel Dacus said...

It's a good day when you can slow to the speed of poetry like that. The speed of poetry is the speed of a child's phenomenal power of observation and emotion. We all need to tune in to a kid --- or a kid within -- and let that awe unfold. Thanks for this!

Rachel Dacus said...

It's a good day when you can slow to the speed of poetry like that. The speed of poetry is the speed of a child's phenomenal power of observation and emotion. We all need to tune in to a kid --- or a kid within -- and let that awe unfold. Thanks for this!

Anonymous said...

This story reminded me of the time that my sister and I took the train from Stratford to London with our Grandmother to spend the day at the London's Children Museum (the best one I ever went to!)... the train conductor let us sit in the frnt with him and pull the horn as we travelled. It was such a great day.

In fact I have always loved trains - whether it be laying coins down to see a train flatten them or taking one to visit a family member... they're a great way to travel. My daughter and I just went on our first train ride together and it was pretty darn special to say the least!

Anonymous said...

It could just be that TRAINS ARE COOL!!!!!

Of course, I'm the one who ususally seeks them out.... I've been known to turn around after crossing the tracks because I noticed a train was comming.... I've even pulled over and waited long enough to make sure I was first to be stopped at the crossing.

I don't think my wife or daughter quite get my fascination... But that's ok. I can easily handle being the child in that situation.