“I don’t want to go see trains with just you. I want my friends to come,” my son says, crying on the way to the transportation museum. “I’m really sorry buddy, they can’t come because they’re busy,” I say, giving him the same answer I’ve been giving him for months. Because adults are complicated, I think instead, and that trickles down to the children we love whether we want it to or not.
He is only four and easily distracted from his hurts; a donut with sprinkles and a train ride later and he is smiling at me, and next time when we come perhaps he will no longer even ask, because, after all, you can reclaim spaces more easily than selves, rewrite new memories over the old, learn to make a building yours. We learn this when we are still small, when a wordless part of us understands there is such a thing as house and there is such a thing as home, each of them with walls, only one of them with love.
I have spent the year reclaiming things, places, from other, harder memories. Not hard because it hurt me to make them, but hard because I can’t make them again, hard because there are avenues now closed to me, and only some of them my doing. Is that why we take pictures? To remember the places when all we feel is the hurt? To remember the places, and all the love we had given to the people in them? To remember, most of all, the love?
On the ride, I take a picture of my son in his bright blue coat staring out the small train window, his dark eyes taking in the tipped over orange cones near the tracks, the gravel, the line of no longer used box cars, even the grey, sunless sky beyond. Years from now, when he sees this picture, I hope that is what he will remember. Not the trains, not the tracks, not the people not with us, just the love. How I loved him, most of all.