My dad has a long-standing love of trains – as I recall the story, his father was a railroad man and Dad spent quite a bit of his childhood exploring the tracks and trains near his Ohio home. In the years since, he’s amassed quite a collection of model trains and, as someone who adores all things tiny, those models have always fascinated me.
As does the very real beauty of train travel itself, which takes you right through America’s back yards to get from point A to point B. It’s slow (especially through the south, where passenger trains often have to pull aside for the far more profitable freight trains), it’s relaxing, and there is a certain magic to it. The last time I was on a train was when my daughter turned 18. We took the Heartland Flyer from OKC to Fort Worth and I presented her gift somewhere between Pauls Valley and the state line – a music box that played our song (You’ve Got a Friend) and she loved it so much she cried. I loved that moment so very very much.
A blog friend was talking recently about taking her daughter to see a Tutankhamen exhibit and it jogged a memory for me. As I rooted around for it I got, instead, the image of a pair of ruby slippers and I suddenly remembered The Freedom Train! I surely must have gone with my Dad when it visited Oklahoma City in April of 1976 and I remember it had a Tutankhamen car with a few pieces from that famous exhibit, along with the slippers of course (said to be “the” actual pair worn by Judy Garland) and I will never forget how awestruck I was by it (not Tut as much as the slippers, I have to admit). It was a big year for me, not to mention our country – I turned 13 on July 2 and the country turned 200 on July 4.
Today, I turned 49 and it’s almost impossible to believe so many years have passed! My journey has taken me through many miles and not a few pullovers for something bigger and better to pass me by. I used to think life would be perfect once I achieved certain things – home ownership, a promotion at work, recognition. I think I spent a lot of time pining for the day when everything would fall into place.
But these days, I’m finding myself far less drawn to those material milestones – traveling to a faraway places seems less appealing than looking for myself right here at home, the gifts that matter most to me now are people to love and being loved back, sharing what I make and learning from others, the ability to just be myself (without pretense or regret), and sweet memories of those oh-so-special moments – tiny trains, a music box, a pair of ruby slippers…
“Listen to your life… see it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness. Touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments and life itself is grace.”