First Train Tickets

My daughter entered nursery school at three-and-a-half, in a sunlit-filled Waldorf school, with a teacher she had known her entire life. Her teacher tied an apron around her back, and she happily sat at a table, with a wide brush and bright yellow paint. She looked up at me and said, probably very nicely, Mommy, you can go now.

I must have looked bereft, because the teacher laughed and told me I could go around the school and look through the window. I considered this. I actually wondered how deep the weeds grew there, if I was tall enough to look in, and if the children might see me.

I ended up sitting in the school’s courtyard that morning.

Yesterday, I was at the Montpelier train station with my daughter just about all grown up now, with her boyfriend and their luggage, and we were laughing and joking, as she sat there eating watermelon. In the companionable train-traveling way, a woman joined in with our conversation. On the open-air platform, listening to red-winged blackbirds, the morning was all green Vermont May and enthusiasm for their trip. Then the great silver train rushed into the station, they got on, and I was alone on the platform, watching the receding back of the train with its two lights, the horn sounding at the next road crossing.

I was quite sure they were still laughing in the swaying train.

In my youth, I took so many trips, packed up an old black VW Rabbit and traveled west, and probably thought little of my parents. But standing on that train station platform before heading off to work, already missing my daughter, I thought of my parents, too.

The secret source of humor itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.

– Mark Twain


Montpelier Junction, Vermont


7 thoughts on “First Train Tickets

  1. So poignant. A nice reminder as I adjust to my own daughter’s return = done with college for good. Happy to have her back — although I DID discover how much I like living alone!

  2. I was bereft the day I brought Hannah to nursery school. It was so many years ago, but I remember the sharp pain I felt as a distinct and newly-experienced rush of feeling. I can imagine I’ll experience Hannah’s first travel away from us, solo or with a peer, as you’ve so eloquently described. Thanks Brett.

  3. I love this! My four ‘babies’ are aged 27 – 36 now, and every time there is a leaving I remember their childhood ‘leavings’, and also the time I turned back for one last wave as my man and I headed down the departure tunnel at Auckland International Airport at the start of our year and a half trip to Europe: I saw my father wiping his eyes and thought, affectionately, ‘silly old man’. Now I understand.

  4. Friends of mine who just had a beautiful baby girl said they felt like they’d just joined a whole new circle of companions — because they have! They’re in the parent world now. There’s no returning, and who would want to, anyway?

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