Sunday, December 15, 2013

Trains For Christmas

Like mistletoe and wreaths on the door, trains seem to have an affiliation with Christmas. At my house there used to be a train set up around the tree with a Santa Fe engine and several cars following.
My friend had a train too but it was smaller. Not those big clunky cars that looked like they were a real train, but little ones. And they were fast. Faster than our old train ever could go. The cars were sleek and fast, but this was the 60’s when everything was becoming sleek and fast.
The train was stored away in the attic until Christmas came. I think it was given to my brother one year but there was no room for the track to be laid out except for Christmas.
I remember seeing the old rumpled cardboard boxes holding the tracks and transformer. A big black box with a handle that when turned the train would go faster. I remember if they went too fast they would fall off the track. I also remember when trying to place them back I would get shocked.
When we were cleaning out the house, my brother took the train. I figured he would set it up for his kids. I never spend Christmas at their house so I don’t know if he did or didn’t.
I never had any interest in trains or model cars or any of those types of toys. Have no idea why because they were pressed on the youthful environment. At the local toy store they had an H&O trains running all the time. There were little cities and trees and highways with stops and drop gates. There were even little plastic people waving as the train went by. There were multiple tracks so trains went all over the place some even puffing smoke. At the local department store, a train would be set up in the window for Christmas.
The problem with a train is it only goes in one direction and usually in a circle. You can hook up coal carriers or flat beds carrying lumber or passenger cars followed by a caboose. You could stop the train and reload the cars but the train still only went in one direction.
I even worked in a train station and got to ride free. I could sit in the back with the engineers and watch them drink around a potbelly stove. I learned how to walk the rails and keep my balance going between cars. I never could understand the speaker trying to direct passengers to the designated track but enjoyed the redcaps.
So next week I’ve been invited by my brother to go see some trains in Blackstone hardware store. I guess he never got over the trains. I asked him if he was putting up the old set our family had but he had sold them, some for a pretty good price.
I look forward to seeing an old Christmas memory come to life. I also hope to see the childish love in his face for the little choo-choo.
No surprise I even went Christmas shopping. There was nothing I was looking but I wanted to get into the Christmas spirit. I went to the local big box store and noticed all the excitement. Lots of people wandering the aisles with that fuzzy look of trying to find the perfect gift for some loved one. I also noticed all the employees stacking shelves with more boxes and temptations for the season without giving a care for the consumer. I guess customer service is a dying art form.
I went to buy thermals but enjoyed walking through the toy section. My first experience was a group of young people, oh I’d say in there 20’s walking through the aisles. They seem to be collecting ideas for purchasing toys for possibility the unfortunate or some toy drive. They were laughing and talking but not really interested in the toys. Other aisles were full of confused mothers checking out each box as if they were the special ingredients for a Christmas stew. I thought of the train but couldn’t find anything.
On this adventure I decided to go to another little mall. It was a sunny day and I had nothing else to do so I wheeled around and instead of going to the gym, I traveled a couple more miles to another toy store.
I looked through the aisles of hammers and pant and screwdrivers. Somewhere along the way, these employees were taught manners and customer service. After asking if I could find what I was looking for, I asked about a headphone radio I had seen during the summer. He said he didn’t think they had them but went off for assistance. Another person check a case that was empty then went into a storeroom to look for the item. I had thought about getting these headphones to replace one that I already had but could not get working. I convinced myself I would sand the walls on a rainy day and use the headphones to block the whiney sound with classical music. The last yellow headphones were found and I left relived I had found them and though more than I thought they would cost, checked them off my list.
Going back to my bike, I passed another toy store and in the window was a train. It wasn’t moving but just the site of it drew me in. A pleasant woman in an apron welcomed me and asked if I needed any assistance. I told her what I was looking for that I couldn’t find at the other store. With a warm smile she pointed out one item and asked the age of the recipient. When I explained the story behind looking for this particular item and probably looking like a homeless guy she took me to another area for a similar item. I thanked her and said I would like to look around a little more. This shop had been visited many times over the years and wasn’t as big or bold as the normal toy. This store presented toys for the upper class. Dolls that did not come in cardboard and old fashion wooden handmade toys with the price tags to match filled the shelves of this toyshop.
I looked through all the wonders that children could welcome on a Christmas morning and was not really looking for something but then maybe I was? I picked up the item once passed over and purchased it. Sometimes there are surprises in Christmas.

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