These days, on the now rare occasions I’m walking the streets by myself, if I see tractors, trucks or trains, my first thought is to wish my son was with me because he would think it’s awesome.
Unsurprisingly, my little boy loves tractors, trucks and trains. We may live in New York City, where wonders lie around every corner, but nothing rates next to, say, one of those Kings County cement mixers decorated with the American flag.
Celebrities can’t break him away from the objects of his affection. We’ve had the opportunity to meet Michael Strahan on three separate occasions, and Liam screamed at him to go away each time. He did the same to Ben Affleck. We were at the filming of Good Morning America, you see, but the TV lights and glamour couldn’t compare to the trucks and buses going by, and Michael and Ben were blocking the view.
Once, Jennifer Lawrence tried to strike up a conversation with him in Murray’s Bagels. But Liam was seated at the window and couldn’t care less about the Hunger Games star. He was too busy watching the backhoe across the street.
He doesn’t just ignore celebrities either, he tunes family out as well. He regularly interrupts conversations at home and on the street about any random truck that rattles by, and if it’s a fire truck, well, all bets are off! Fire trucks are the real celebrities to Liam.
Tractors, trucks and trains are all he ever talks about; all he wants to watch on TV; all he wants to read about; and all he wants to play with. His favorite clothes have these vehicles on them, and that’s all he ever wants to wear. He was a Choo Choo Train for Halloween. A local bakery had a train display in their window over the holidays, and I had to take him to see it every day, no matter how sick I was. We need to go to Grand Central Terminal once a week while the Holiday Train Display is featured there. It does not end.
For a while, I worried about him. Was this obsession healthy? There are other things in the world, would he ever pay attention to anything else?
This was before he entered pre-school. And while he’s clearly more interested in big vehicles than other children, it really isn’t by much. And once he began interacting with other children on the playground, it was always a toy truck or tractor that broke the ice and got them playing with each other.
Once a little more thought was put into it, I had to admit that Liam comes by it honestly. I loved tractors, trucks and trains just as much as when I was a boy. Some of my very first memories are of my old Tonka truck, that big metal monstrosity.
I used to go nowhere, and I mean nowhere, without a suitcase full of Hot Wheels, Matchbox and Corgi cars. As I got older, model railroading became the big thing. I devoured magazines dedicated to the hobby and obsessively pored over the diorama I was building and laying track upon.
Somewhere along the line, I lost that love. I don’t really know why. I moved on to action figures, to sports, to girls and trying to impress my friends. University and career took over shortly thereafter. And then I was an adult. Sorta.
Don’t get me wrong, I hung on to mementos from my childhood as much as I could. Anyone who’s met me has probably seen me wearing a superhero shirt. Up until my forties, I still regularly collected comic books and superhero paraphernalia. I still kinda do, they just go to Liam now.
So while the superhero shirts and toys do make us both happy, the pure joy that tractors, trucks and trains bring to Liam not only surpasses that but also has reawakened my own love for them. Just take a good look at the next tractor you see; the next crane towering above you; regard the raw power of that train pulling into the station; and wow, those Kings County cement mixers really do look cool!
And I’m not the only one susceptible to Liam’s infectious joy when he sees the objects of his affection. If a truck is parked on our street he must go and see it, exclaiming the whole time how cool it is. People passing by can’t help but smile, and if the driver is there, that’s who Liam treats like a celebrity.
Also, it doesn’t hurt that his unbridled enthusiasm for the vehicle gets him invited to sit in it.
I mean how could you deny this? Look how happy he is. He’s smiling, I’m smiling, the truck driver is smiling, and passersby are all smiling. His love for tractors, trucks and trains doesn’t just make him feel good but makes everyone around him feel good too.
Look, the world is an unsteady place right now. America is divided sharply by uncertainty and obstinance. Discrimination is threatening to become law. The hateful and bigoted are crowing about running the country while massive protests line the streets against the current administration. “Alternative facts” are trying to whitewash brazen lies, and the low rumble of war has started from nations like China.
In times like these, filled with anger and dread, joy becomes more precious than ever. So who am I to deny my son the joy he finds in these vehicles? He loves them, and they bring him joy. Not only that, but his joy infects everyone else, so who am I to deny those people joy as well?
A parent’s duty is to raise a happy child. He loves them, I love him, and so I will love tractors, trucks and trains once again.
All photos contributed by Chad R. MacDonald