11 years later…

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Mel, Norah (our 6-year-old daughter), and myself were on the Fall Splendor Train running through Small Town, Oregon. It was the Saturday before our 11-year anniversary, and riding on a train was kind of a big deal. Not that we are train enthusiasts or anything. I wasn’t a fan of Thomas the Train. In fact, the fact that Thomas has a human face and a train body makes me really disoriented. More that, on our honeymoon, we rode the Heber Creeper train along the Provo River in Utah.

 

It was late October, then 2004, and we were staying in a rented cabin near the base of Mount Timpanogos. We were both 22-years-old and we didn’t have a whole lot of plans for our honeymoon. And while hanging out in a cabin for a week sounded very romantic, we soon realized just how boring it was, and ended up leering over a stand of brochures advertising local attractions. On a whim, we decided to take a train ride. And for some reason, whoever we talk to about our honeymoon, the train ride comes up. I can’t recall exactly how long the train ride was, but I remember thinking it moved at a snail’s pace. And I remember that they had this grey-haired man dressed up like a conductor, and Mel and I got our photo with him. But most of all, I remember a moment where Mel and I were sitting next to each other in the train car, sipping hot chocolate.

 

Mel was looking out the window. She was in jeans and a purple sweater, with a winter hat on. Outside there was snow and bare trees. Her one leg was tucked into her chest, and I remember thinking just how beautiful she was, our life together, and how although we’d just finished a wedding, which felt like the end of something, this was, in fact the beginning of our lives. And I really liked thinking about that. It didn’t seem scary or anything. It seemed just right. Just what I’d always wanted. I didn’t know exactly where we were heading on that train, and I didn’t know exactly where we were heading in life. But I knew that we were moving towards a destination, and I was excited to see what laid a head.

 

Flash forward 11 years, and we were on a train, in Oregon. Once again I didn’t know just where we were headed, but what I did know is where we had been. I assumed we looked older, but it’s hard to tell. Mel had aged so gradually. I knew that I’d gained some weight, and Mel had had three children. Neither of us were going grey yet. But we did have Norah, our spunky 6-year-old, running from one car to the next.

 

I wanted to take a moment, sit next to Mel, place my arm around her, and reflect on the past 11 years. But it wasn’t going to happen. Norah was the only one of our children who was interested in a train ride, so we left Tristan and Aspen, the oldest and the youngest, at home with a sitter.

 

Norah was in a pink shirt, pink skirt, and sandals and socks. One sock was striped with rainbow colors, the other blue. Her short brown hair bounced with the train movements, and as she dragged me from one car to the next.

After about 20 minutes into the train ride, I sat her down on a bench in the open-air car, and Mel and I tried to tell her about our honeymoon.

 

“You know,” Mel said. “When your dad and I got married, we rode on a train much like this one. It is one of our favorite memories.”

 

Mel raised her eyebrows, and went to go on, when Norah stopped her and said, “Yeah…Let’s go get some more popcorn.”

 

I thought about our first train ride, and how long it seemed to last when it was just Mel and I. And then I thought about the first couple years of our marriage. How long they seemed to last. I thought about all the fights and bumps in the road. I thought about our first anniversary, and how it felt like we’d really accomplished something. How I was so proud of us. How it seemed to go by so fast, but now, thinking back, it seemed to go much slower than the years have gone with children.

 

And so it was on that train ride. I spent most of it trying to get Norah to slow down, sit down, calm down, just long enough that Mel and I could sit and snuggle, and think about the past, the next thing I knew we were back at the station.

 

I don’t know if this second train ride went nearly as far as the first. I don’t know if it went faster, or slower. But what I do know is that it went by like a flash, and that seems to be the way my life is going now. Sometimes it feels like someone keeps putting their foot on the gas. Years are flying by like the fall colors on that train. And as we got off the train, I looked at Mel and smiled. I wondered if the next time we rode a train, if we would be grey. I wondered what Norah would look like. And I knew, that although it might be another 11 years down the road, it would probably happen sooner than I could imagine.

 

Sometimes I get so caught up in the next stage of life, hoping that one challenge will be over, so that I can move on to something simpler, that I forget to take a moment to reflect. So I stopped for a moment in the van. Once everyone was seated and buckled, I said to Norah, “Someday we are going to take you on another train ride. And when we do, I want you to think about this day, how much fun you had, and how much Mom and I mean to you. Deal?”

 

Norah smiled and said, “Deal!”

 

 

 

 

 

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