Saturday, December 22, 2007

Train Town

I'm not quite sure why the Christmas season is the time for trains. Maybe it's that all the little kids disguised as grownups out there are finally given a season to play with dolls. Maybe because so many people do things like put trains around their Christmas trees, other institutions think it's a fun way to decorate too. Or maybe it's just because, deep down, trains kick ass, and any excuse to set up an elaborate layout in interesting settings is just too much of a temptation.

Whatever the reason, I'm stoked. My guys love train exhibits. Well, Sam doesn't love them quite as much, so we chose a morning only he had school and went to the train exhibit at the Brookside Gardens conservatory with some friends to watch the trains.

(Even though he may not be too bummed about missing the trains, don't tell him about the morning, because while he was being forced to watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas—which is apparently very scary if you're six—at school, we followed our train expedition with a trip to Pizza Hut for buffet lunch and Hostess cupcakes. It's like Sam's worst nightmare come true. And don't get me started on schools killing time with worthless videos. Do you think they're aware that there's an actual book they could read to the kids instead?)

Anyway. We had gone to this exhibit last year too and practically had to drag Jack away. He was equally pleased this time. There was one freight train in particular that he was fond of. He would watch it wind around the little town...

...and then run to the bridge to watch it go under. Then he would run back.

Quinn also enjoyed the outing, but, in true Quinn fashion&#8212literally&#8212he refused to dress up for the occasion. What about fancy trip to the (insert hoity toity accent here) conservatory says pajama top and cape to him? Listen, Little Man, just because you were sick this week doesn't mean you get to stomp all over our train-watching social mores.

I hope to post a photo of Quinn without this goddamn cape sometime before he turns 15.

When we first got to the exhibit, one of the trains and a trolley weren't running because of some seemingly crucial maintenance being done on the itsy bitsy ice rink. This caused a little bit of a problem for one of the kids in our group, who had been to the exhibit the previous week and apparently become quite attached to the little passenger train. The very train that was at a standstill. Evidently model trains are waaaaay less interesting if they're standing still.

Ice rink maintenance eventually ended, after three burly men in plaid flannel shirts, who are about the last people you'd ever imagine playing with dolls, carefully placed the ice skating dolls on the rink. "We're just big kids ourselves," one of them admitted to me.

One of those men noticed Jack's attraction to the trains and even picked up on his name after hearing me tell him six or seven times, "Jack, you can't go under the fence," and "Jack, you're not allowed in with the trains," and "Jack, don't touch! Don't touch! Keep your hands off the trains!" or even, "Jack, are you okay? That's why we don't crawl over the rocks to get in with the trains."

This man recognized Jack as a kindred spirit and went out of his way to bring me a flyer about his organization and to tell me about some upcoming train displays. It turns out that I am turning into a complete wuss, because this small act of attention and kindness made me teary-eyed. I'm such a goddamn sap.

For me, one of the coolest things about these sorts of displays are the detailed little scenes that the trains travel past. The little guys fishing off a dock. The bear stealing the little guys' fish. The sunbather all by herself out in the woods. The bustling town at the end of the line. Once all my kids move out, I'm turning my basement into one of those creepy train table rooms and I am going to have so much fun playing with the tiny dolls. I may even include some trains.

But here's something I found sort of hilarious. I am not one to mourn the lack of a "Merry Christmas." I'm fine with "Happy Holidays," and have been calling end-of-the-year vacation "winter break" instead of "Christmas break" since college. But "Holiday Trees"? Can't our trees at least be Christmas trees. I'm going to take a stand and say that it's okay to call purely Christmas items by purely Christmas names. No "Holiday Claus" for me.

The Holiday Trees stand does have some fancy proprietors though.


  1. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

    SB enjoyed the train exhibit at Brookside last year ... haven't been there yet this year ... maybe this coming week ... Trains, pizza, and cupcakes ... yup, that's pretty much his idea of Heaven.

  2. Yeah for trains! We went to our 10th train sighting of the season last night. This guy actually has the whole thing set up in his front yard. After and hour of listening to Bubba ask 3000 questions (in the cold outdoors), we finally left with both kids kicking and screaming. The display you went to looks pretty cool!

  3. They're "holiday trees" so they can also sell them to Wiccans who celebrate Solstice. ;)

    Stebbins-Anderson in Towson has a fab display, too. Can we get the info on the other displays? My boys discovered trains this year, too...

  4. I really like the cape. Don't tell Quinn if you don't want to encourage it - but he's an individual. I love it!

  5. Joeymom, the website the guy gave me today is He said to check back there in January. It sounds like they have several Virginia displays over the course of the year.

    Bettejo, I also like the cape. He definitely has his own sense of style. I just wish he had more than one outfit he was willing to wear. Neither of my other two kids were this opinionated this young.

  6. Looks like great fun! We love trains too!

  7. No holiday trees for me either! A home improvement chain out here in Cali called them "family trees" in ad copy. I guess I can't buy one, since I'm single! MERRY CHRISTMAS from an old grad school pal! I will be sending you a long e-mail tomorrow with some pix in case you can't remember me by this nickname. Your blog rocks! Love to you and your boys (all four of them)!

  8. Zoomer! Of course I remember you by your nickname! I'm so happy to hear from you. I can't wait to get your email! Thanks for stopping by.

  9. We're planning a trip there next week. Thanks for giving the thumbs up! (looks like it's in the same place as the butterfly exhibit was)

  10. Sounds like a cool outing! Um, about the train room in the basement thing, you know--after the kids are gone? just don't go all CSI on us, ok? (In case you don't know the reference, there was a killer who built miniatures...could have worked on those train exhibits...) I'm just sayin'...

  11. KAL, it is in the same place as the butterfly exhibit. But at least they don't pat you down for winged hitchhikers when you leave the train exhibit.

    Niksmom, I totally got the CSI reference and promise not to become a serial killer. I do not, however, promise to not get all creepy and weird.


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