I Missed The Train
The current heat wave reminds me of the first time I ever wanted to be a grown-up.
Some kids can’t wait to grow up; but not me.
I liked being a kid. I could not picture life without dolls and make-believe. Being an adult looked awful, almost as bad as being a boy – who seemed to do nothing but pretend to shoot each other. Sure grown-ups could still swim and ride bicycles and play cards, but they didn’t seem to have much fun doing it.
I wanted to wear makeup, of course, but I didn’t see a reason why I couldn’t be a kid and wear makeup too. Makeup is part of make-believe – and that was my right as a kid.
No, I didn’t want to grow up.
Until a hot summer trip in 1962 to Washington DC.
My family traveled by train from Connecticut to Washington for my father’s military reunion.
And that train ride changed everything.
The six of us – Dad, Mom, my two older sisters, my little brother and me – were joined by my parents’ best friends and their two daughters.
My sisters were only a year apart in age, and the older of the friends’ daughters was their age too.
The younger daughter Jan was a rambunctious nine-year-old. I was eleven. I had, up to this point, always had great fun with Jan.
I had never been on a train before. The train car had seats that faced each other. This reminded me of a stagecoach like on Bonanza and I was delighted.
My parents sat with their friends, with my little brother between Mom and Dad. The older girls quickly settled down into seats that faced a group of boys. I sat separately with Jan.
Sooner or later, an active little girl can get on the nerves of a daydreamer little girl. A seven hour train ride did it for me.
Jan was up and down and back and forth. She seemed to especially enjoy going to the ladies’ room, as if there were something enthralling about peeing on a train. She needed to visit her mother constantly. She needed a snack every ten minutes. And she wanted to sit by the window…no, the aisle…no, the window. And her method of getting past me was just to crawl over me. I had footprints on my skirt. What a baby.
And from where I sat, I could see my sisters, Christine and Claudia, with Jan’s sister Barbara. Sitting with those boys.
I hated boys.
But on the other hand, there was an awful lot of giggling going on with those boys. It seemed to me the boys even treated the girls to a soda. Like in Archie and Veronica.
I couldn’t hear their conversation. But I knew from Popeye that boys mostly liked to show their muscles to girls. So I imagined that there was a lot of muscle demonstration going on.
And suddenly I was jealous. I wanted to sit on the train with boys. I wanted to be laughing with boys. I wanted to flirt. I wanted to be grown up like my sisters. (who were 14 and 15.)
We saw all kinds of historic things in Washington on that trip. But I only remember the oppressive heat. And that train ride.
But I realize now that I missed my opportunity to get my wish.
For many years, I had a job which required me to take the train to New York once a week. I got to ride on the train with boys.
But all these guys had their laptops and their cell phones and their Wall Street Journals.
Where were the cokes? Where was the laughter? The flirting?
Years of riding on the train with boys and not once – NOT ONCE – did a boy show me his muscles.
I’m so disappointed. Being an adult sucks as much as I thought it did.