We arrived at the station and there was Thomas in all his baby blue glory, smiling at the thought of hauling happy children up and down the track. Zach ran right over. He moved in close but not too close, examined the wheels, searched out the engineer, looked down the row of coaches. Jake was cool about the scene. He's eight (and a half) you know. Thomas once took his breath away but not so much anymore. The day was really about Zach. Andy helped me situate the boys on the plywood box placed in front of Thomas for a perfect photo. Zach was a little nervous having his back to Thomas. I think he wanted to keep an eye on him. Jake placed his arm around his Bebe's shoulder and the photo was snapped. Look closely and you can see Zach's apprehension.
The engineer blew the whistle and Zach covered his ears. We moved to the side of the track and watched as Thomas pulled away from the station. I explained to Zach it was not our turn to ride Thomas, we were on the next trip. He didn't seem bothered that Thomas had left without him. This should have been my first clue.
We made the rounds at the gift shops and then walked back to the station anticipating Thomas' return. Zach was so excited to catch sight of the engine and watch it grow bigger and bigger as it neared the station. The passengers unloaded and it was our turn to ride. Tickets in hand, we moved toward car number 42 but Zach stalled as the line formed. We tried talking to him, we tried pushing him toward the train and we tried threatening him ("Do you want a new Thomas movie? No train ride, no movie.") all to no avail.
Jake and I took our seats and Andy and Zach waved from the platform. As we pulled away I watched Andy gently wrap his arms around our boy. I could tell Andy was whispering something in Zach's ear. Something just between them. Jake and I made the most of the brief train ride designed to thrill people much younger than either of us. We bet money on how fast the train was traveling. I said, "Fifty miles per hour." He said, "Fifty-one." The conductor settled it by informing us of the train's top speed: 17 m.p.h. I looked at Jake and we busted up laughing.
Zach was waiting at the station holding his new wooden train whistle because our threats of not buying something are usually empty. He ran to greet us and skipped around the track as we left, taking one last look at the blue engine he loves best. " Zach," I said, "you didn't ride Thomas."
"Ride Thomas," he parroted. "No, that was the ride, you didn't ride Thomas," I clarified. But he was not concerned with specifics. He blew his whistle and ran toward the golf cart whose driver had offered us a ride to the parking lot. I think this ride was the highlight of his day.
Andy asked, "Can we get our money back on those two tickets?" I checked the fine print, "No refunds." Oh well, plans change. And speaking of changing plans, we'll need to re-think the 4 tickets I purchased to ride the Polar Express.