I remember lying on my belly on the beige carpet on the 2nd floor of our house. Legs up in the air, eyes concentrating on the scenery and my right hand on the control: Forward—stop—first level go – speed up – slow down – watch out for the cows.
We were living in a house nestled in a very, VERY suburban neighborhood. The late evening sun shone through the roof window and slowly fainted to black. The light from the kitchen downstairs partly lit the upstairs open area that offered four doors to different rooms: My parent’s bedroom, the master bathroom, my room, and a guest room. I preferred the middle area where all those rooms met – it’s an open space and you can overhear everything in the house. And save a life, perhaps.
I spent hours with my dad setting up those train tracks. They had to fit together. At first, they formed a perfect circle. But we quickly discovered that this was no fun. So we expanded our route to an oval. I like to believe that the train was a Christmas present. Christmas is everything to me (next to Halloween).
I like it because I remember vividly how I was led upstairs by my mom when Santa Claus was about to show up. Or as we believe, and said at the time in Germany, the “Christkind”. I remember trying to look through the wooden bars upstairs that face the stairs going down. You couldn’t see anything but the stairs, but you heard everything that was going on on the first floor. My grandfather knew. To this day, I believe he had a bell that he rang. He spoke to the Christ child… pretended… for me! For me to believe. He wanted me to believe. He rang the bell. I remember his voice being low, speaking in secret, pretending to hope I wouldn’t notice. Prompting our visitor to leave its presents under the tree. And he did.
I don’t know much about my (paternal) grandfather. He was born in Poland, but to Germans. It was complicated. He was a joker. And he survived the wars. I saw him on his deathbed. And I believe he watches over me.
Over several holidays, we expanded the train: With trees, animals, farms, stations, anything. The first thing I would do when I got home from school was to play with that train. The smell was so distinct – very irony. Dry, sweet, electrical, slightly burned on the carpet. The control would heat up when I would play with it for too long. I then stopped for half an hour, got something to eat, and went back up. I loved that train. It was the only thing I was able to control.
The echoes from my parents disagreeing could be heard upstairs. Perhaps one of the reasons I liked the train station’s location so much. I wanted to be involved. Able to react. Interfere. Save. Perhaps.
I remember that the train assembly gave me a sense of peace. Control. Whenever there was a pig on the tracks, the train was stronger and just pushed it to the side. Everyone was always on time. If not, nobody complained; they understood that the tracks were still in the process of being built. And that intense scent of electricity. I’m grateful for the times I had with that train. And I’m almost even more grateful that those times are over. Although they feel like it was just yesterday. Life.
Day 9 #30DayWritingChallenge ; Prompt: “What was your favorite childhood toy?”