When I was younger and lived in New York, we would visit my Gram for holidays and sometimes in the summer too. At the time it always seemed that the four-hour trek to Pennsylvania took forever. When you’re a kid, anything over 45 minutes is an eternity, and you had no qualms letting the parental units driving hear all about this eternal time spent in the car. There would always come a point in the drive though, when my siblings and I knew that the arrival to Grammy’s was imminent—the train tracks. In fact, this train track crossing became so momentous that whichever kid was awake as the train tracks would approach, would rouse the others. I knew the landmarks so well that my mind would automatically start to think, “make a right turn, make a left turn, big cement walls, then… train tracks!!!” The train tracks were always an audible declaration.
Looking back, I now realize what those train tracks really stood for.
They stood for comfort, they stood for entering through the back screen door, they stood for my Gram’s glasses-framed face. They stood for her round white kitchen table that always had chips and sandwiches at lunch. The train tracks even stood for climbing trees which had my Gram’s beloved posies underneath, to which we surely would be scolded for climbing. As I got older, we moved around a lot and eventually the path to Grammy’s house became varied and different, and we didn’t have to cross the train tracks anymore. There was still comfort and familiarity with going to her house, but the excitement of the train tracks was gone, reduced to a warm memory.
This recollection got me wondering about the reoccurring experience in adults: Can we still feel that same savory excitement from these experiences that we felt as children? Perhaps as adults, repetitive encounters don’t inspire as much excitement and awe as our childhood ones because when they happen we are busy thinking of all that needs to be accomplished. Or maybe it’s as simple as we aren’t taking the time to create these experiences.
As all of these notion sat in the back of my mind, something happened to me.
In the beginning of August, I took a trip with the family, to Coronado Island in San Diego. We go on this trip usually once a year, and there is a very large and looming bridge connecting San Diego to Coronado. This bridge has always slightly terrified with me with its dizzying height and giant curvature. Every time we cross the bridge I think extremely positive thoughts that a massive, or even minor, earthquake will not occur. This year, as we were quickly approaching the bridge, I most definitely was thinking those extra positive, anti-earthquake thoughts. But before I realized what was happening, I had turned to the kids in the car, shaking the headphones off of them and exclaimed, “The bridge, the bridge! We’re almost there!”. There it was. There were my ”train tracks”, in all of their glorious awe-inducing adult form. And you know what those kids did? They took out their smart phones, rolled down the windows and started filming the ascent and said, “We always know when we’re almost there because of the bridge!”
It still exists. The excitement and awe I once had still exists as an adult, and it was all captured right there on a smart phone. Thanks kids for helping me see it’s still present, and if I ever forget again, we’ve always got your iPhone video to help me remember.
Photo credit: All West / Flickr