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Reclaiming a moment from Childhood

October 22, 2009

caboose-title

The other day I saw a caboose.

It was the first time I had seen a caboose since I was 7, living in the Alberta prairies across from the train tracks.  The caboose I saw was not a decoration or a monument sitting on the lawn out in front of a museum, it was attached to a train and chugging along like it had no idea that above it, chugging along on the sky train, my heart was doing little flips of joy.

What is so special about a caboose? The memories, my dears, the memories.  When I was 6 years old my family moved to a village in the Alberta prairies. Our house was on the edge of town, and across the gravel road (where I learned to ride my bike), and just beyond the small marsh pond, was the grain elevator and the train tracks. In the summer, when my friends and I would play in the tree fort we made next to my house, one of the constant sounds was always the trains going by. Not all the time, but once a day at least, and every time the train would go by, we would run out onto my front lawn. Then we would count the cars (a habit I still do) and when the caboose came up at the end we would wave our arms wildly and jump and cheer. And then out of the caboose we would see the silhouette of  the caboose man come out and toss us a calm, off-handed wave. This would of course make us cheer and wave even more, and we would keep waving until the train had disappeared from view.  Then laughing and exhausted from our front yard interpretive dance, we would collapse into giggles in the grass.

At 6 and 7 years old, one never imagines that anything will ever end, though perhaps I knew more than others my age since my family moved often when I was little. But despite the many moves, and having to make new friends and even the big change of having a baby sister after being an only child for 6 years, this one, small change has always stuck with me. One day the train came, but there was no caboose, no caboose man to wave at, no point in waving or cheering or anything of the sort at the train. It changed instantly from something personable to an object, cold and unfeeling.  I still remember standing there with my friends and all of us looking at each other, confused.  Instead of a caboose, all the train had at the end was a flashing light.

The decision to remove the cabooses, downsize the railway staff and implement the flashing rear-end devices that are now used on trains was made by people so far removed from my little world, but it had such a memorable impact on it. It was shortly after this that my family moved again and this move turned out to be much harder for me to deal with than the others, likely since I was older and had to actually change schools rather than just babysitters. It was a big growing up moment, a moment that you don’t even realize was there until you look back on it. In hindsight, some of my child-like hope and wonder began to fade that day.

So when I saw that caboose the other day, it was like a piece of my childhood was handed back to me and the world was saying “what is gone is not lost forever, and even innocence and hope can be reclaimed.”

How about you my gentle readers? Have you ever had a “caboose moment” before and refound something from childhood you thought lost?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 23, 2009 2:06 pm

    I adore this post. I have many memories that appear as if out of nowhere, and I’m thankful that my mind has the sense to carefully store them up until the day when something triggers and I need them again. Trains are a constant love of mine, too.

  2. aerussell permalink*
    October 23, 2009 7:48 pm

    The brain is an amazing thing and it’s capacity to store memories never ceases to amaze me. 🙂

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