A friend stopped over earlier this week for a quick visit. She brought her two young sons with her. Once they were inside the foyer, they quickly remembered their previous visit when they had played with my son's now lonely wooden train sets. We brought them up from the abandoned playroom and soon Thomas, Percy, and Edward were once again chugging along the newly laid tracks. The boys played and my friend and I talked.
Soon it was time to leave. The boys bid tearful good-byes to the trains, packed up their winter clothing, and headed to the car, grumbling along the way. The time spent imagining themselves as busy train conductors had ended far too soon.
A short time later, my seven and nine year old arrived home from school, shedding their boots, coats, and winter hats as they excitedly competed to tell me about the coming field trip to the Science Museum. They brought in their school bags for me to inspect and made careful snack selections. About two bites into their graham crackers and bananas, they noticed all of their train cars, engines, little houses, and mountains of wooden tracks spread around the sun room. They both surmised that some little guests had paid a visit and then continued on with their snacks.
Often, after a full day of school, both of my kids are tired and are looking for a way to relax. Sometimes that means building snow forts, other times it means origami or just taking a rest. On our "best" days, they might choose the good ol' standby of bickering with each other to pass the time. This day, without saying a word to each other, they migrated over to the train yard.
In no time, they had constructed an elaborate system of bridges and tunnels and were pushing their trains along the tracks - complete with train noises. An hour later, I had to pull them from their train play so that we could make it to gymnastics and basketball practice. Even in the van, they were still having discussions about what to build next and trying to figure out where that old windmill went to anyway.
When our young visitors had brought up the train set earlier in the day, I had experienced a wash of sadness that my son was "too old" to play with trains anymore. That moment made me long for his younger days of Thomas the Tank Engine, Elmo, and Little Bear. However, in that hour that I watched both children build and collaborate and bring those trains back to life, I realized how God makes it okay for our kids to grow up - He continues to give us the opportunity to have a glimpse into their past without completely abandoning their present. And that's just what it is... a present.