“In childhood, we press our nose to the pane, looking out. In memories of childhood, we press our nose to the pane, looking in.” — Robert Brault
“Daddy, are you excited about the field trip tomorrow?” Lila asked as a grin bunched her freckled cheeks. Her eyes were wide with the night-before-the-class-trip wonder.
“Yes, Flossy.” I answered halfheartedly, eyeing my calendar on my phone. My jaw tensed as all the items on my to-do list raced through my mind. She had given me the permission slip weeks before and I’d scribbled my name on it. Not really giving much thought to the date, time, or even location. The joy in my little freckled face brown-eyed girl urged me to sign on the dotted line. I’d given her my word that I would go. It was possible, but I’d just have to work on my day off.
I loved field trips as a kid. Growing up in a single parent home, we didn’t get to travel much outside of school, and mama’s work schedule didn’t allow her to tag along on field trips. I used to envy other kids whose parents went with us. I always wanted to be that dad.
We arrived at Coffee County’s Heritage Museum, enjoyed a brief talk about the exhibits, and then strolled around them trying to take it all in. (If you know me, you know I’m a bit of a history nerd.) We found some antique ice cream sundae dishes and Lila’s eyes sparkled. Before my diagnosis with diabetes, we would sneak away for banana splits at the DQ. Lila had to have a picture taken.
We wandered from room to room. Then I was slapped with a memory, which time almost robbed. In the Train Room, I saw a miniature train. One-eight the size of the locomotives that once roared down the tracks in our town.
A smile tugged at the corners of my mouth. It couldn’t be. It was! The train that once stood at the local library. I had played on this very train as a kid. I looked at the seat that was faded from countless kid’s bottoms rubbing the black paint. Memories of twisting the knobs, pulling the levers, and inspecting the gauges poured into my mind. I read books about a man with a big yellow hat who owned a curious monkey on the back of the engine.
My mama took us to the library on her days off almost every week. We’d spend entire afternoons surrounded by books. Looking back, it was the most inexpensive form of entertainment for my family. We formed some of my fondest memories in the silent aisles of books at the Satilla Regional Library with mama.
By the end of the day, I realized that even though my mama didn’t get to attend many school functions; she taught me the value of being present in her kid’s life. I pray I pass this legacy on to my children.