Riding the Rails
It's your third birthday. We buy
a wooden train, a length of track,
an arched trestle. You line each car
precisely, laugh when the magnets
match engine to caboose, scream
as your clumsy hands marry
like pole to pole and the cars
spring apart. I memorize
the schedule of the Framingham line
so I can drive you to the crossing
in time for nap, the whistle of the 2:20
means an hour's peace, the lines ease
from your forehead and my jaw. I wait
as the rail's song fades, all hope
of me on that train, gone,
no ticket in my pocket.
I think I can, I think I can.
In the Rockies they chop up mile-long trains,
couple an engine every few cars, power
freight through the mountain passes.
I am the only engine here.
You wake grumbling like an old deisel.
If the signals are with me, I can make it
home before "Thomas the Tank Engine."
Mr. Conductor will take us
to the Isle of Sodor. It is lovely
there. You name all your friends, Thomas,
Edward, Toby, James. The phone rings.
Dad is on the 6:20. We race him
to the station. You slip a smiling
Thomas in my hand, your eyes and his,
cartoon round. I park the little train
on the dashboard pointing towards
tomorrow, our only destination.
Before AS entered our vocabulary, it had already entered our lives. We just didn't know it. I wrote this poem today for a challenge in a poetry workshop I participate in; I hadn't expected it to take me back to those early and confusing days pre 'aspie'. I truly felt as if I was the engine, pulling the weight of a mile long train uphill every day. I was a first time mother, dealing with toddler behavior that wasn't in any of the 'books.' My own responses and coping seemed ineffective. There were days when I sat down and watched "Thomas" with my son and cried.
Life is much different now. The rails are straight and they point us toward a horizen that is full of possibility. I no longer dread the journey.