A trip down memory lane….

You ever have one of those moments in your life that just triggers a childhood memory so vivid and so wonderful that it brings a smile to your face and perhaps even a tear to your eye? And no I don’t mean the “oh, I just got a spec of dust in there” kinda tear, but the one that shows a thought or feeling of true joy and happiness. Well, I had one of those moments the other morning and let me tell you it was just a wonderful trip back down the road of my geeky past. I was heading into town to do a few errands. It was a nice sunny day. A beautiful blue sky, gentle breeze, and of course the…..wait for it…..frustration and dislike of sitting in traffic. Factor in that my truck has no working a/c at the moment and it was just really kinda miserable. Course all wasn’t so bad. I had some good music playing (i think mc chris but I cannot remember), and I was just off in my own little world.

As I approached a railroad crossing I noticed the gates lowering, a sure sign that a train was coming down the tracks. I was behind the first car in line, so I just popped it in neutral and waited. I don’t really know why I did what I did next, but I reached over to pause my ipod and rolled down both windows. I sat there, listening for that all familiar warning horn signalling the approach. Suddenly, there it was. The low shriek of the train’s main horn, and the dull clack clack of the rails as the large metallic beast lumbered across. Now, what happened next was only a matter of seconds, but what a jolt. I noticed the big diesel engine was pulling the load in reverse. As I glanced out of my driver side window, I caught the eye of the conductor as he sat in his area, arm draped out of the window. In that moment, he looked over toward me, and waved……

It was a nice spring morning in the early 1980’s. The exact year and month escape me, but I’m sure it was a weekend day since I was not in school that day. I ran out of my parents house, grabbed my bike, and rode up to my grandfather’s garage. He was a town mechanic, back when Wilmington was much, MUCH smaller and less populous than it is now. I always like going up there to just play around, watch him work on old cars, and every now and then watch the freight trains go by. I walked up to him and asked, “Grandad, when is the train coming by?” He looked down at me and simply said, “In a few, but today I got a surprise for you.”

Now, normally I just sat in front of the garage and watched the trains pass, counting how many cars were being pulled and writing down the name on the engine. Today was special though. We soon heard the horn sound in the distance. My grandfather took my hand, and walked me up to the road. We looked both ways and crossed the two lane highway. As we walked up to a small dirt road that crossed the tracks, I could see the engine. I was a gray engine, Seaboard Systems Railroad like I had seen numerous times. As the engine approached, I remember looking up and seeing the conductor leaning out of the window, watching ahead. He glanced down at me as he passed us, and waved. “Morning young man!”, he shouted over the loud engine. That was such an awe inspiring sight and it made my whole day……

Back to the morning in my truck. Seeing the conductor waving at me, I waved back. I thought back on that day when I was young. My grandfather has long since passed. The road is now much larger, a sprawling five lane highway. The tracks are long gone, replaced by shopping centers and businesses. The spot where my grandfather and I stood is now a oil change shop. His garage now a vacant lot. Before all the Star Wars and Tranformers, before teenage years and responsibility, I was simply a boy who loved trains, and that was the high point of my life that day.

So to all my friends and to all who read this, remember something and take this with you. If you have children, or ever have then…..have one of those moments. And remember your own moments. We live in an age of computers and ipods and 3D high definition false realities. However, we are geeks, and even geeks have that one simple moment from the past that makes them smile.