a quote from my favorite author

“The most solid advice, though, for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

-William Saroyan, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Visions of a Train Set

He woke up at 3am with visions of a train set tugging him into consciousness.  He had to solve the puzzle. 

It was his dad’s train set.  The one he grew up with.  The one his daughters grew up with.

He had found someone who knew a guy who could repair the engine on the train.  He had fastened the tracks and the village to a board.  He had cut an identical board to hide the wiring. 

Now, he just had to figure out the wiring.  In which order do the wires get attached to the transformer? He had to get the wiring right or risk ending up back where he started: finding someone who knows a guy who can repair an old train set that has been shorted out by faulty wiring. 

So, at 3am, he pulled on clothes and headed to the garage.  To his workshop.  He decided to start with the light bulbs.  He remembered seeing a small envelope marked “extra light bulbs” in his father’s familiar handwriting.  Handwriting he has missed for almost 25 years. 

As he hunted for the envelope, the puzzle of the transformer continued to work its way to the front of his thoughts.  He is a man passionate about blueprints, and this transformer was quickly becoming a diagram in his head.

His fingers reached for the envelope.  He gently squeezed it open and tipped it to spill out the old bulbs he intended to test.  The bulbs spilled out along with a folded, yellowed paper that had once been torn out of a tiny notebook. 

His eyes had not entirely woken up yet.  They had yet to catch up with the pace his mind was setting in working on that wiring diagram. 

So, he squinted to read the old red lettering from his father’s hand:  “wiring diagram for train station.”

The puzzle of the train set that tugged him into consciousness at 3am was solved.  He set to work deciphering the directions, given to him by his father long after having let him go. 

He set to work creating a new set of directions (or a “reversion” as he put it in his charming way of remixing words to suit his needs).  One day his daughter is going to need that diagram.


  1. Those 3am ideas are the best! (Well, my husband would tell you differently, but that's why he makes me keep a notepad by my side of the bed!) I loved the way you showed little details of your dad's feelings -- like how he missed his dad's handwriting.

  2. I LOVE THIS POST! You told this so well. Really, mouth dropped, jealous of what I have read.

    On a personal note--this is a great slice of a Christmas memory. In between all the beautiful description is a voice filled with loved.

    Thanks for sharing this

  3. Beautiful! You found a wonderful way to tell this story. How cool that your grandfather had put those directions in years ago to be found just at the right time. That train is truly special!

  4. I just love this post - you captured something so timeless in this piece, and the idea of the treasures one generation hands to another is so beautifully given expression to. Thank you, and Happy Holidays!

  5. Oh Christy, sorry to be so late; it's been a long day! This shows me what I have to aspire to. Your spare words are just beautiful, & show the love & dedication your husband has to recreate his past, along with your love for him & how well you know him. It's something to send somewhere. I just know a train magazine would love it. And it's something to keep! Thanks much & Merry Christmas!

  6. This story reaches across time and is simply beautiful. Beautiful.

  7. I think I didn't read your intro Christy, & thought this was about your husband instead of your father. Sorry! It is a beautiful story about your father & then about you!

  8. This is a wonderful post Christy! TJ talks often about Grandpa's train set and all the wonderful memories he has of visiting them in Chicago. We now have a Chicago Cub's train set the gets put up around the bottom of the Christmas Tree every year. I suppose it's one of those compromises a Cardinals fan has to make for the sake of her marriage. :) Staying true to his sweet tooth, I can't tell you how many times he's told me about the glass jars of candy they kept in the house! :) Thanks for sharing!

  9. I loved your post and read it twice. And then I heard a rattling...
    Carrot Pudding Angel
    I just had to post it. Scridges of paper are the best!

  10. I have had my own experiences with letters from relatives - secret messages that reach across time and appear at just the right time - thanks for including pictures of the writing along with the story.