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all aboard

I bought Finn a train table when he was a baby. With your first kid, you buy ridiculously stupid things like wipe warmers and penis tee-pees and single-purpose train tables that take up huge amounts of floor space. I gave my second kid a few months with the train table but by that time I’d been eyeing the real estate that sat under the table for a couple years. And Tate seemed generally disinterested in the table, and trains. So I gave it to the kids’ school.

He didn’t even notice at first. But then, two weeks after I gave the table away, Tate looked up from his Cheerios one morning with his lip curled into a snarl. “Where my train table?” I pretended not to hear, and slowly slid the cereal box between us. “WHERE MY TRAIN TABLE?” I looked up to find him standing on his chair, peering over the cereal box with his hands on his hips. Shit! “What train table?,” I ventured. Wrong answer. Tate really hates it when I play dumb. He grabbed his milk glass and held it high in the air over the sisal rug. Checkmate. “Oh, THAT train table! Right,” I said. “Dunno. Maybe Handy Manny needed it for his shop? You should ask Daddy.”

Soon thereafter, Tate became completely obsessed with trains. He builds the tracks and puts the trains on them, all day long. He builds the tracks on my kitchen floor, right under the boiling pots. And in the entryway, right in front of the door. And in the hallway to the bathroom. I have slipped on innumerable trains in the dark. Some of them play songs when you step on them. Songs that you can’t turn off. So you have to throw them out the window to stop them from waking your kids.

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how i hate you, train

I have trains on the brain. There is a road (Naito Parkway) that runs almost directly from my office to my kids’ school. It’s a great road. It has almost no lights on it, and it traverses the entire downtown grid, so it allows you to get from one end of downtown to another in speedy fashion. In theory. In reality, everyone I know avoids the North end of Naito because it’s bisected by train tracks. On a good day with no trains I can get from my parking garage to the school in two minutes. But that never happens. Sometimes I feel like the trains lie in wait under the bridge until they see me coming. Because I always catch a train. Sometimes, I get stopped twice by the same train, as demonstrated in these photos.

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you again

Sitting in front of a train for 20 minutes while your kids are waiting on the other side will get you thinking. Why build a thoroughfare and then cross railroad tracks over it? Why are we still transporting things by train? We don’t use stagecoaches or burros anymore. How efficient can trains be when they move so goddamn slow? Could I run faster than this train? How much faster could I run than this train? Is this train even MOVING? Can the person in the car next to me hear me screaming? Why aren’t they screaming?

My friend Kathryn works for the Port of Portland and she really loves it when I text her pics of the trains from my car, asking “Why can’t you make this stop?” Anyway, first world problem. God I hate that phrase. It really diminishes the significance of my grievances.

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12 Comments Post a comment
  1. At least your train table was meant to be played with by actual children. My F-in-Law had a garage eating train table set up he spent YEARS putting together “for the grandkids”. Turns out my mother in law walked all those groceries in from the driveway for naught, unfortunately. All my kids were ever encouraged to do was watch while Engineer Gpa ran the trains “for them” around the track.

    Predictably, the kids weren’t allowed to touch any of it until they were way past old enough to completely lose interest. Which deeply offended their Gpa, of course. We came to think of that train table as emblematic of all the Untoys – the ones you couldn’t play with “because”….

    March 8, 2013
  2. Kids seem to only miss things when they realize they no longer have them and then *suddenly* develop a deep interest and attachment to the missing toy. Maybe if you had no trains or tracks to slow you down and impede your day, you might actually miss them.
    Then again, your day might be just that much better without them.

    March 7, 2013
  3. Ah yes, I know the failure of playing stupid when asked, “Where’s my (whatever)?”

    March 7, 2013
    • i am consistently surprised by how much tate thinks i know about the location of his toys

      March 7, 2013
  4. My first train table came from a yard sale for a steal of a deal. $20… Aus was 10. Yes 10… However, our gran babies love it… Aus thinks its good for Lincoln logs and GI joes and Legos. Xander 6 and Marah 3 (mostly Marah) loves the trains. Can’t wait to see what Evan (3 months) thinks of the train table. And Austen who is now 13 thinks it a pretty cool distraction for the kids… As long as they don’t mess with his Legos.

    March 7, 2013
    • train tables are one of those awesome things that are great only at grandma’s house or the children’s museum. familiarity breeds contempt. i’m happy to hear yours has gotten so much love!

      March 7, 2013
  5. shoe #

    Good luck fighting that entitlements battle with old man R&R. It’s win-able if you’ve got a time machine and/or $15MM for land use attorneys, tunnel construction, etc. đŸ™‚

    While you’re at it, please also administer the timely and on-budget completion of the CRC.

    March 7, 2013
    • the CRC. ironic, that. anyway kathryn said she’d build me a grade separation for my birthday. i don’t know what that is but i like the sound of it

      March 7, 2013
  6. An #

    concerning Naito:
    yes.
    I know I should take the more reliable, but slower, way to get to school. But sometimes the siren song of Naito is too strong….

    And when I do beat the train, it’s as if I have cheated death herself…

    Also: I took Jonah on the Amtrak from seattle to portland once. It was a gas. The doors that you have to kick to open kinda wigged him out, but it was great. All up until it broke down about 30 minutes outside of portland, and we sat there for 2 hours….

    March 7, 2013
    • an, 90% of the time i take the much longer route (all the way up Burnside from 2nd, to 14th). but once in a while i’ll think, “surely i won’t get caught at 5:10–the trains wouldn’t be crossing at rush hour” and then i get screwed again. i realize i only have myself to blame. as you say, when i get through without a train i feel invincible. i’m taking finn up to seattle by train soon. excited for that, irrationally

      March 7, 2013
  7. Hilarious! I too wonder about passing among the train table. The things we buy our kids.

    March 7, 2013
    • the play kitchen, also a solid purchase. they scoff at the play pots and pans and take the real ones from my cupboards, and then lose the lids and bang them around

      March 7, 2013

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