When Katherine was little, she had a passion for (maybe even obssession with) trains. She was about 2 1/2 when she fell in love with Thomas the Tank Engine. From then on, we were all deeply involved in the thoughts and activities of the many, many toy trains on the imaginary Island of Sodor. Katherine read every train book she could find. She played with her toy trains for hours and hours and talked about them as if they were real people. She wore (boys') Thomas shirt and socks and pajamas and was highly annoyed that no one sells Thomas underwear for girls. Granny made her a dress from Thomas print fabric and she wore it until she couldn't squeeze into it anymore. The train phase lasted for close to three years and secretly, I enjoyed it. I kind of liked playing trains and while I didn't care if Edward was mad at James or if Thomas got lost delivering milk, I loved the rich fantasy world they inhabited. I was certainly relieved that Katherine had picked trains as a passion over Barbie or princesses or some other girly character. [Of course, Rachel has made up for that and taught us to appreciate pink, too.]
Katherine eventually grew into other interests and her trains were set aside. I was glad not to have to read The Little Engine That Could seven days a week, but I was sad when the trains went away. I missed Thomas. I missed watching Kate get excited about every single train she saw, real or toy. I missed the sweet little tomboy she once was. And so I kept all of her trains. I passed her train books on to other train lovers I know. I sent the Thomas t-shirts to Goodwill. The train puzzles and toys and trinkets found new homes. But I kept the train tracks and all the little metal trains with their funny faces and their names printed on the bottom. Every now and then, I pull them out and think about putting them in a garage sale, but I never do. I can't. Not yet.
So this evening, I was overwhelmed by nostalgia and delight when I looked up to find a train track running the length of the living room and two girls crawling around play trains.