Tonight, I fear, we will have to farewell an old friend
Actually, it’s not that old. It was a Christmas gift last year. But to Hannah, it’s as old a friend and as good a friend as she can remember.
That friend is her toy train. It was given to her by her grandparents as a first Christmas present.
The train has been a constant part of her life ever since. For many months now she has been infatuated by the bright colours, funny noises and movement. Hannah has been known to spend large amounts of time pressing the buttons, over and over again.
I guess it’s not overly surprising that the train has finally met its demise. One could argue that it should have perished many times before.
There was the time that Hannah sent the train on its merry journey down the stairs. Twice. It was one of her first ever lessons on the inertial force of gravity.
Then there was the time that Hannah sent the train over the edge of the lounge. It made the most incredible sound as it crashed onto the hard tiles below. I was sure it had met its maker at that point, but much to my surprise, on it went as good as new (mildly annoying song still blaring).
That train has been crashed into countless walls. It has been sat on, stepped on, picked up and dropped. A few times it has even been thrown. Yet none of that stopped it from working.
I was almost sure that the damned thing would last forever. I had finally overcome my surprise that a battery-powered piece of plastic had lasted the torture that had been (lovingly) lavished upon it by an over-enthusiastic toddler with a penchant for physics experiments. I had come to accept that in this day and age, build quality still counted for something with at least one toy manufacturer.
Then it happened.
A freakish event that changed the course of toddler play for good. A coming together of the seemingly indestructible and that most destructive of substances – water.
Hannah is learning to drink from a cup, and so it was that she sat on the edge of her play-mat, waiting for me to bring her a cup. Moments before I handed her the fateful vessel of doom, Hannah reached out and hit the smoke-stack of her train. This action makes the train begin a song, then a short while later start moving.
I handed Hannah the cup. Despite having witnessed her set the train in motion, I thought nothing of the fact that it was pointed directly at Hannah’s body. That was a terrible oversight, one that could prove to be fateful.
The rest is somewhat a blur. The train careened into Hannah’s torso just as she took a sip from her cup. Water went flying. A toddler became surprised, then wet, then somewhat unhappy. A father became a mildly panicked cleaning machine. Much paper towel was used.
The train put up a good fight, but the water that gushed from every outlet like open wounds from which the flow of blood could not be stemmed was a fair indication that it may have met its match. Hannah could see that I was paying her beloved toy train an unusual amount of attention, so she insisted on clambering over to join in and press buttons.
For a moment, all seemed well. The train made the usual noises with each press of a button. Then things changed. Small things at first. Things only a parent who had heard the same sounds thousands of times would be able to identify.
But quickly the issues snowballed. The train began to switch modes without human intervention. The result of button-presses became decidedly haywire. Randomness had overcome the train. Most distressing for the uncomprehending toddler who was madly trying to regain control of her favourite toy was the smoke-stack – no longer did it play a little ditty then send the train on its way. Now it did nothing at all. The train started and stopped of its own volition. No amount of tiny-fisted thumping on it could change its mind.
I wrestled the crippled train from Hannah’s vice-like grip. The look of pain on her little face was heartbreaking. She obviously couldn’t comprehend what had happened to her favourite toy.
I turned the train off and took it to the laundry in the hope that it would be able to dry out and rediscover its former majesty. I don’t hold a huge amount of hope; I’m no electrical engineer, but I’m pretty sure that water-induced short-circuits are irreversible.
Hannah held a vigil for her little mate at the laundry door. It mainly involved screaming, opening the door and enthusiastically pointing at her stricken locomotive while I provided the calming and reassuring words of “close that door and come over here, I’m trying to make your dinner.”
Vale toy train, you will be missed.