Snakes on a Train

Snakes on a TrainLast month, my family– including my brother’s two daughters, ages 4 and 8– got stuck on an Amtrak train. While the tracks ahead of us got fixed, our five hour pleasure journey turned into ten hours of… waiting.

“Being a parent is often about heading things off at the pass,” my brother said later, when I commented on his Survivor-style kid engagement. When it became clear that a train car would be home for the foreseeable future, my brother improvised an activity kit: drinking straws, coffee stirrers, pens, pocket knife. Seat trays were deployed. Within a few minutes, the girls were joining straws and stirrers to build snakes and bridges. When the luster of construction wore off, my brother taught the girls to twist rope from straw wrappers. Continue reading

These Are the Wings

Dickerson ChristmasI’m six years old, and my family and I are driving home from an evening advent service. Baby Michael is asleep. Matthew, at a rambunctious four years, is not. For a tired family in the thick of the holiday season, the shortest distance between two points may be a straight line, but my parents know the importance of a detour.

“Let’s visit the fairy land,” my father says, and turns on a side street a few blocks from our house.

The block glows with thousands of bulbous multicolored lights, strung each year by a group of neighbors in the street’s tall California pines. Dad slows the car, and Mom starts singing. We join her: “What a beautiful sight, we’re happy tonight.” And it’s true. Keep reading, there’s more!