Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Written on the train

Though the train ride from Washington, D.C. home to the Boston suburbs takes nearly eight hours and is a little tedious no matter how much I try to tell myself that the scenery is engrossing and the free time welcome, mostly I keep looking at the roadways and thinking how relieved I am not to be doing this same trip by car. Eight hours of travel is bound to be a little tedious no matter how you do it, but Amtrak certainly beats automobile.

If I were driving the same distance, I’d be fighting the drowsiness that overtakes me any time I drive more than an hour or so in bright daylight, and the kids would have to sit still. Instead, I’m free to doze – although Holly seems determined to ensure that doesn’t happen – and the kids can get up and walk around as much as they want, which is a lot. You’d never imagine it from all the time I spend at home imploring them to clear plates, throw away discarded projects, and put dirty clothes in the laundry, but each of them has made a dozen or so trips to the trash receptacle at the far end of the train car. They’re willing to toss out each piece of trash we generate individually if it means more opportunities to be on their feet. And I have no problem with that. It’s good for their circulation, it’s better for their bodies than sitting still, it passes the time – even if ever so slightly – and it increases the odds that they’ll eventually tire out and fall asleep, though that hasn’t happened yet.

The scenery outside is intriguing, and I feel sure that if I were by myself I’d be much more focused on it, but the distraction of staying aware of what the kids are up to keeps drawing me away from the window view. Still, every tableau I’ve viewed is interesting in its own way: the lush forests in Maryland, the glass and steel buildings of Wilmington, the crumbling brick warehouses of Newark, the muddy tones of the Passaic River. Soon we’ll reach the picturesque harbors of Connecticut.

Reading is hard for the same reason admiring the view is: I’m distracted by keeping aware of what the kids are doing. Tim is immersed in his own book, but Holly is squirrely, and she and I are both indulging in too many empty carbohydrates – chips, crackers, cookies – in an effort to make the time go by. I’ve sneakily encouraged the kids to buy food one item at a time – a hot dog, then a drink, then later a dessert – because walks to the cafĂ© car take up their time also, and seem to be of great amusement to them, though I grow a little anxious every time Holly is out of my sight. Just two weeks ago I interviewed an expert in human trafficking; had I not talked to her so recently, I wouldn’t be worrying about Holly being snatched from a lurker on the platform as the doors open.

So yes, it’s a little bit tedious, but it’s sooooo much better than driving. We’ll be home in a few hours, and we’ll get into our car at the train station, which is a lot better than having spent the past ten hours in it. I’m grateful today to Amtrak for making my life easier and more interesting than it would have otherwise been today, and I’m grateful in general for a safe return home after a great trip to D.C.

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