The sun has yet to rise upon our kitchen table, littered with empty pop cans and drippings from yesterday’s dinner of wings and pizza, which served as a delicious foreshadowing of today’s thanksgiving feast.
Andrew is rubbing his forehead and thinking aloud that he has spent too much time on fantasy football. “As if that’s even possible” I retort, shaking my head slowly back and forth. Fantasy football is a brilliant combination of our imagination and the statistical reality of the NFL. Where else do we do this? Cram carefully measured data into our fantasy? I’ll tell you: model trains.
When I was a kid, I played with a Tyco HO scale model of the Rock Island Express. In the real world, trains travel across the continent and carry their cargo to consumers in urban centers and rural nothingness. In my bedroom, surrounded by the typical stuff of my 8-year old existence, the Rock Island traveled in a perfect circle, carrying nothing but the nickels I jammed into one of the boxcars. It frequently tipped over. Oh, the carnage!
I wanted my model train to mimic the real life existence of trains. In my head, it did. I played Fantasy Railroad every day for a month after my 8th birthday, which fell on November 17 — about a week before Thanksgiving. I remember having to leave my train circle to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house on this day 24 years ago. As I rode in the back seat, buckled in next to my baby sister, I thought about the mighty Rock Island Express and her cargo, which had to make it to the upper hemisphere of my track circle. Without the safe delivery of their giant nickel palettes, the people would go hungry. No trainman worth his salt would allow that to happen.
We didn’t go hungry that day. We feasted on turkey, pie, and I endured adult conversation the whole time. Then, it was back to the trains before bed. I fell asleep while mentally designing a Lego train station. I was thankful. I just didn’t know it yet.