Christmas Trains

Christmas Train

We set up the trains. I dig trains.

Trains, chapter IX
October 1, 2007

At about that time every year
the trains came out,
Santa Fe and Rock Island
with their coal cars,
and Smuckers’ jam cars,
and the tiny red caboose
chugging among the
H.O. gauge houses and cows.

Taking up half the living room
and two thirds of our days,
these were as much the
harbingers of Christmas as
trees, or presents, or
the inevitable and pointless
wishes for snow —
a snow that would
never come in the
heat of the East African December,

The smell of ozone,
the whir of the engines,
the flash of the tinsel
as it fell on the tracks,
popping and sparking.
And the
circling, circling, circling
of the engines
as they counted down
the days to Christmas.

And although, without fail,
a cow wedged in the tracks
sent the train
tumbling from the table,
and perhaps a sobbing kid
running from the room,
it wouldn’t stay derailed for long
and would soon be, again,
rushing around on its
brisk journey to nowhere.

Across the years
electric trains mean Christmas
and Christmas means electric trains,
even as they sat
collecting dust and rust
in boxes somewhere in an attic darkness,
and I raced my own
circles ’round the sun.

This year, though,
they’ll resume their rightful place
as center pieces of the season,
and, once again the
same age as my kids,

I’ll watch them
rush around and around
and behind them pull
a full load of memories.