The last train has long since left the station here at the Crap Shack but, in his younger years, my son was all about trains...
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The first seven years of little Vladimir’s life were filled with his dreams of becoming a train engineer.* For about five years he wore the same outfit every day… OshKosh overalls in a tasteful blue and white stripe, along with a matching striped engineer’s hat. For Halloween he would dress it up with a red bandana. (No cute little pumpkin outfits for Vladimir!)
This suited Vladimir’s dad and I just fine. We gratefully bypassed the current popular culture icons such as Mutant Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers. We felt it was far superior to go with the classic childhood toys. Our house became filled with trains of all sorts… Brio, HO, N-Gauge, G-Gauge, Lionel, Duplo, Playmobil, Lego... and more. The Little General became one of our favorite movies and Thomas the Tank Engine’s best friends became ours as well. My creative contribution was to craft stuffed cloth Annie & Clarabel train cars to go with the stuffed Thomas the Tank Engine that Vladimir took to bed each night (in lieu of the traditional stuffed animal.) Vladimir’s dad spent hours in the basement workshop, creating new additions for the collection… tiny wooden train sets, additional wooden track for the Brios, Christmas tree ornaments, etc. Each was lovingly crafted for the enjoyment of all. Family vacations were spent traveling to railway museums and sleeping in caboose motels.
Later on Vladimir developed an interest in roller coasters. Because he was a large economy-sized kid, he was tall enough to ride these amusement park demons by the time he was four. And I dutifully accompanied him, trying my best not to faint or lose my lunch on the spiraling drops in mid-air. (My personal best was riding the Quantum Loop five times in a row without barfing.)
Now, you’d think these were innocuous pursuits, which would afford few reasons to be sent to Mommy Jail. But believe me… there are plenty of ways that only Vladimir could come up with.
From an early age, a favorite Saturday morning routine for Vladimir and his dad was to go to one of the local train spotting locations to watch for trains. During these outings they would occasionally find old railroad spikes and the “fish-plates” into which they are driven. These would be collected and brought home for the “collection”. This would not be bad in and of itself. However, I was a bit taken aback one morning when I came outside to find 4-year-old Vladimir with a sledge-hammer in hand, pounding the spikes through the fish plates and into our driveway.
“HOLY CRAP, Vladimir! WHAT are you DOING?!?!”
This reasonable question was met with a proud smile and the words… “Daddy said I could do it.” GRRRRRR!
(Cut to scene of parents arguing in quiet voices about the sanity of this pursuit.)
I had visions of having to rush Vladimir to the hospital with a spike sticking out of his foot and blood gushing from the massive head wound where he had clunked himself with the sledge-hammer.
Emergency Room Nurse: “And Vladimir’s Mommy… how exactly did little Vladimir come to having a rusty railroad spike driven through his foot… not to mention the gash in his head? Were you actually stupid enough to think these were appropriate toys for a 4-year-old? We’d like to have you talk to our social worker now.”
Definitely a reason for being sent to Mommy Jail!
Vladimir’s dad assured me I was over-reacting and so the tradition continued and the number of fish-plates in the driveway grew. For years I thumped over them as I drove the car in and out of the driveway and swore at them each time my shovel came to a jarring halt during the snowy season. (It wasn’t until Vladimir was 20 years old that he finally agreed to remove them.)
Another time, Vladimir and his dad decided to build their own roller coaster. It was really cool! They made 24 feet of grooved wooden track out of 2 x 4’s that actually went up and down and over which Vladimir could ride a little cart that they also created. We would add “poppers” to the track to create extra thrills. (The chances of being arrested for having contraband “poppers” in our possession were slim, so I agreed to go along with this plan. They may yell at you for being stupid, but I don’t think they take you to Mommy Jail for that.) Come winter, the track had to be put away.
One day, Vladimir called me to the basement to ask a favor. He was clad in his cute little engineer outfit as usual and had gotten out one of the sections of roller coaster train track. He was laying down on it and wanted me to tie him to the tracks. Okay, I’d play along…
I did such a good job, Vladimir looked as though he’d been tied there by Snidely Whiplash himself! Then Vladimir wanted me to leave him there like that. I went back upstairs and went about my business and all was quiet from the basement. The more I worked, the more uneasy I became…
This would be the perfect time for someone to come visit, (for example, the social worker from the hospital,) discover I had my child tied up to railroad tracks in the basement and turn me in to the Mommy Police. Mommy Jail was definitely looming in the distance.
When I rushed back downstairs to untie him, Vladimir was laying quietly and contentedly, wondering why I was in such a state. Poor Vladimir… once again I took all his fun away by insisting he had to let me untie him. Worse, I made him promise never to go to school and tell everyone I had tied him up in the basement and left him to rot.
Lucky for me Vladimir’s a great kid… or else he could still be holding this one over my head to this day!
Mommy Jail still lurks!