I am an only child. With two working parents, being alone was par for the course. But I was never lonely. I had my imagination, and a neighbor with eight daughters(!) so I didn't lack playmates either. Even when there was no one around, I could be still with my own thoughts, and I've been able to do that for as long as I can remember.
Perhaps that is why some of my most distinct memories are from the times spent by myself. One that immediately comes to mind is when I was pulling all-nighters for my term papers in college. In the hours between not quite night and not quite morning, my frantic typing would be the only sound in the room. However, it would be interrupted by the occasional distant rumble of a train passing by our slumbering town, and I would stop to listen, mesmerized by the sound, curious about its freight and passengers. I imagined details about where they're from, where they're going and what they're thinking that precise moment (the passengers, not the goods).
Years after college, whenever I heard a train in the dark of night, it would always take me back to those solitary nights, when all of my procrastinator's panic came to a halt, replaced by the momentary peace that arrived and departed with the train. I would see that bedroom again with my mind's eye - the corner desk lost amid books and papers of photocopied research from the library, the ever-present mug of strong black coffee, the two windows that provided much needed cross-ventilation for an apartment - my first apartment in college - with no AC, and a queen bed with the maroon bedsheets and quasi-matching floral comforter I purchased on my first shopping trip as a student in the States, which I still own to this day. I don't even know why I have it. The floral pattern, now faded, is outdated and no longer my style, but I suppose something that kept me warm those first few years I was here feeling mostly cold and homesick for my family deserves a place in my home now as its value in memories alone makes up for its lack in aesthetics.
That room, those moments of solitude always came back to me with the sound of the train - until recently. Little Miss, who's beginning to make more discernible sounds other than grunts and squeaks, has recently acquired a vocabulary that's rather useful in barnyard communication. She woofs, baas, moos, and choo-choos (well, what do you think ferries these animals to and from the barn?). After she learned choo-choo for the first time, having seen a few commuter trains go by where we were, she wouldn't stop choo-chooing in our car ride home. I suppose she's like most toddlers who like to practice their new found skills. Over and over and over.
That night, after she went to bed, My Guy and I decided to relax on the couch to talk about our day with the baby monitor by our side. By then there hasn't been a peep for over 20 minutes so we were pretty sure she was asleep, and it was a relatively quiet evening for us as well. And then it happened: "Choo-choo!" And we cracked up. It happened several more times, followed by more of our laughter as we could only imagine what was running through her head in her darkened bedroom as she eventually choo-chooed herself to sleep.
Now when I hear a train, I think of the infamous choo-choo and giggle, but I have to say, it's a little disconcerting. With her books, DVDs and multi-colored toys in every nook of our house, her pile of dirty clothes deprioritizing mine in the laundry basket and her oddly shaped plastic wares occupying a large square footage in my kitchen cabinets, you'd think she'd leave me something that I can claim as my own. But no... Little Miss Raider of Thoughts has also taken over one of my favorite memories. Great.
What next? My blog? Oh. Wait.
(Is there any part of your life that hasn’t been infiltrated or subverted by or trampled upon by someone else, whether it’s your kids or a loved one? One that you can distinctly call your own? If so, what is it and how do you do it? I’ll be taking notes.)