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Thomas The Tank Engine Has Left The Station

"Time it was, and what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence, a time of confidences
Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph
Preserve your memories, they're all that's left you"
Bookends- Simon and Garfunkel

Kristen's guest post about toys made me smile. Not just because I can relate to the daily battle to avoid being over run by toys but because it reminded me of the toys that used to be. Toys that once thrilled and enchanted my children have come and gone.

I wrote about it once...four years ago. Thomas The Tank Engine used to be a friend of ours. For a short while he was master of the house. Countless hours were spent playing with him. Those days were very special to me, a snapshot in time that has never left my memory.

The toddler who loved Thomas transitioned into a little boy who also loved Thomas. The father of that little boy loved to watch him play. I know, because I am that father and I did love it. It was beautiful to watch his mind work, to see how his imagination was stimulated by the trains.

And then one day it was over. Thomas became a "baby toy" and he moved on. I remember thinking to myself that I should mark the day as a transitional moment. He seemed so big and mature. And now I have to smile, because that big kid is far bigger.

Now he comes home from school with real homework. He talks to me about telephones, telegraphs and stage coaches. He shares stories about science experiments and asks me about stories he reads in the newspaper.

Seventy pounds of boy wrestles with me. Still not big enough to beat me, but large enough to make it more challenging.

The younger version wrestled with me too. But he was so little I hardly noticed. He could swing on my neck and I didn't care. Sometimes he'd sit on my lap and share a train with his baby sister. For a short while she took over taking care of Thomas.

And again I marveled at how she would take the tracks and assemble them. I'd smile as she moved the cars around the tracks. But Thomas never grabbed her in the same fashion. She played with him because she saw her brother do it. She played because she had and still has no greater hero than her big brother.  Whatever he did was something that she wanted to do.

But she was and is her own person. She had dolls that she loved. The dark haired beauty has always loved her dolls, always loved to play house. That was more fun to her. The chance to pretend to be mommy was more interesting.

So she gave up on Thomas. For a while we kept Thomas around. The train table sat in the playroom, all the pieces secured in the drawers below. But eventually Thomas made his way to the garage and new toys came to live here.

And now she too is so much bigger than she used to be. The short little girl with dark eyes and a massive amount of long curly black hair is bigger. Ten inches were shorn from her locks. Ten inches cut off and sent to Locks of Love.

She too has become an avid reader. Few days pass in which she doesn't sit down to read a story to me. Few days pass in which I don't receive a detailed report about the life of a girl in kindergarten.

Now the two of them jockey for time and position with their parents. Both eager to spend quiet time with us. Both eager to play games, but none of them are called Thomas because that train has left the station.


tali said…
Hi Jack,
It has been a while since I have visited your blog. I forgot how much I enjoy reading your posts.

Jack Steiner said…
Hi Tali,

Thanks for coming by. I am glad that you enjoy it. Please come again.
Anonymous said…
Hi Jack - It probably won't surprise you that Thomas the Tank Engine remains a favorite of my toddler. Our train table is set up in the kitchen and he loves to set up the tracks and "zoom" the cars around them. Now my baby sits in his Exersaucer watching his big brother and Thomas while I make dinner.

Thanks for the bittersweet glimpse of what lies ahead.
Unknown said…
I almost cried reading this post. I feel like I could have written it myself. My now 9 year old was obsessed with Thomas from just before he turned 2 until well after 5. Countless hours and dollars were spent on Thomas. I remember the Christmas just before he turned 3 when the ex and I stayed up until 3 am putting together his new train table and laying the tracks. The next day, we saved that gift to be the last he would open. As it was too big to wrap, we covered it with a sheet and a bow. I positioned myself on one side with the camera so that I could capture the look on his face when he pulled the sheet off to discover the treasure underneath. The look was PRICELESS! His joy so great that both Dad and I teared up. His younger brothers are boys and we let him choose one of their middle names and of course he chose Thomas (it worked out well since it's also a family name.) His younger brothers enjoyed a Thomas movie here or there as well as playing with the trains but it has never provided them the joy that it did their big brother.

While there are many things I wish I could remember about their childhoods, there are many moments with Thomas that are sentimentally embedded in my brain. One is how the Thomas obsession began. We went to our public library and picked out a Thomas video. That was the event that started it all. Another thing that made Thomas so special to us was that the oldest is actually named after one of the narrators who is gone but not forgotten. I guess his love of Thomas was destined.

Recently the trains and track have made it into the play rotation. It was very nice to see a dear old friend again.
Jack Steiner said…
Thanks for the bittersweet glimpse of what lies ahead.

Anytime. ;) There are so many good things that come along with the every age.

I won't lie and say that I don't miss certain things or that I wouldn't mind living parts over. But some things that come with age are truly amazing.

Hi Ringleader,

Welcome to the blog. My son had a similar reaction. When he saw Thomas and the table he damn near wet his pants. He was as excited as I have ever seen him.

It is really nice to have these memories. It is easy to appreciate your story because it feels so familiar.