First of all, my apologies to my parents, but the truth of the matter is that given the amount of running around we have to do when we visit the US, it is sometimes hard to look forward to the trip as a relaxing vacation. That being said, this last trip had me excited even before I left and the reason will betray how big of a kid I still am.
Since I was very young, I have had a fascination with trains, which I do not think is unusual. Growing up in a small town in the midwest, it was extremely rare to see even a freight train come through town. However whenever one did, I was happy to sit at the level crossing and watch it pass unlike most other people who were anxious to get to wherever one needs to get to in a small town. I liked spotting the different types of rolling stock, see how many locomotives were pulling, and just maybe see a caboose (they were just barely still in use when I was a kid). I never saw a passenger train, though history books taught us that they once existed. And film also showed people still traveling on them in what were exotic places to a small-town kid like Europe or the northeast. As a young boy I really couldn’t fathom that my small town once had its own passenger depot and dreamt of the possibility of traveling by rail from my small town to destinations unimagined.
Today catching the train is done without thinking. When I was still traveling for work I even earned a frequent traveler card so could access the lounges and didn’t have to wait on the platform with the proles. But even as the travel became commonplace not all of the magic was lost. I still found myself staring as trains passed or got lost in the network of switches and signals in shunting yards my train passed through.
Since I left my home town there has been a lot of rejuvenation. A walking path was created along the river and they even rebuilt the old mill that used to be situated on the dam. However I was floored to learn that not only did they rebuild the old train depot, but were actually starting to run tourist trains departing from the depot and touring about the southern Indiana countryside. They even sold tickets online!
Saturday morning after arriving at my parents’ place, I was for the first time in my life on the platform of the train depot in my home town waiting to board a train.
It was a wonderful trip and I am not ashamed to say magical to have a young boy’s dream realized even if so many years later and to be able to share it with my mother, father, brother, and wife. I was a kid again as that train departed and I don’t know when it was that I stopped smiling.
Add to that unbelievable and slightly surreal experience other nostalgia like a day in West Baden, biking with dad and Dave at the lake, hiking around Lincoln State park and so many family dinners and this trip was a reminder of how good I had it as a kid and what a great family I still have. Not that I ever thought anything bad about my youth. Far from it. But unfortunately it is human nature to grow used to those things which are commonplace. Things you see every day become unremarkable. That is one of the reasons why sitting in that restored train car, riding that bike around the lake, and hiking in Lincoln State Park, all the while looking at the Southern Indiana countryside in its autumnal glory, I was astonished at how beautiful it was as if it were new to me. And I was likewise dumbfounded at how I had forgotten how much beauty I did grow up in. It is often said, and I have found, that it is distance that truly gives one perspective.