Island Packet — The Little Man has become interested in, and by “interested in” I mean “deeply consumed by,” a PBS show called “Dinosaur Train.” And while I can’t claim to be a mass-media expert like all those interesting people on TV, I can say that I find “Dinosaur Train” to be public television’s best-ever example of PURE AND UNRELENTING GENIUS. There are mornings where I will literally pour a fresh bowl of Cocoa Pebbles on top of my head because I did not think of the idea for “Dinosaur Train,” which is absolute perfection: Take the world’s two most awesomest things for a male 5-year-old, smash them together and make a show out of them. It’s amazing. This would be like if they suddenly launched a program for me called “Springsteen KeylimeShakiravideos.”
I have plenty of time for self-immolation, luckily, because we watch a metric truckload of “Dinosaur Train” these days. I obtained my first-ever DVR a few weeks ago, which has essentially become an external storage unit for episodes of “Dinosaur Train” — something that is required, because as you might imagine there are some pretty dramatic differences between episodes. In one, for instance, they take the Dinosaur Train to the Jurassic to meet Tyrannosaurus rexes. In another, they take the Dinosaur Train to the Cretaceous to visit argentinosauruses. In literature, narrative structure can be established and then amended to novel and dramatic effect, which is something that almost never happens on “Dinosaur Train.”
(I am hardly making fun of this show, mind you. In fact, I can safely say that when it comes to deploying dinosaur knowledge I am regularly outgunned by a 5-year-old who about two days out of every week will apply his underwear in reverse.)
Anyway, trains are the Little Man’s life, as anyone who has ever spent more than 12 seconds around him will attest, because 12 seconds is precisely the point at which he will topple his way into whatever adult conversation you are impolitely attempting to hold to make a crucial announcement, such as, “Did you know trains have most of their moving parts on the outside?” or “Hey, I know, let’s pretend we’re on the Polar Express!”
(For the record, we spend every day pretending to be on the Polar Express. The ride to school takes place on the Polar Express, the morning Pop-Tart is heated on the dining car of the Polar Express, when riding bikes I am forced to take the secondary position so I can more effectively embody the thrilling role of The Coal Car. There have been times, when we’re out driving, that my son makes a remark about my actual car, and I have literally responded with shocked disbelief, “Wait, we’re not on the Polar Express anymore?”)
Anyway, it goes without saying that this year’s Christmas List was topped by a train, naturally. But if you have spent any time around 5-year-olds you know that “train” is a deeply insufficient word for such a critical need; the train in question was a very specific model that could be found at Home Depot for the weeks and months leading up to the day when I went to buy it at Home Depot, at which point it had vanished and all traces of its existence had been wiped clean from the memory of the store’s staff members.
Now, when you are a parent and you have just realized that your pointless procrastination has resulted in the failure to obtain the one thing in the world that your son won’t shut up about, a vague wave of panic washes over you, one that compels you to stand in a parking lot in a considerable rain talking to uninterested big-box store staffers in Savannah repeating phrases like, “No NORTH POLE EXPRESS it’s radio controlled IT HAS REINDEER ON THE COAL CAR” wondering essentially what has become of the previous editions of your identity.
So you do what parents have done for time out of mind, a proven means of securing your child’s love again: eBay. In this instance and by pure stroke of dumb stupid luck I happened upon an auction for this ridiculous train that was closing in, I kid you not, like 20 minutes. So I did what I imagine people on eBay HATE: I waited, and I pounced, and somewhere in America I have ruined Christmas for some fresh-faced young train aficionado, and I feel bad about that, but I also saved it for my son, and I don’t know the first thing about parenting other than that now is my job. Also it’s what argentinosaurus would do.