In about my tenth year, as Christmas approached, I yearned, as only a boy can yearn, for an electric train. My desire was not to receive the economical and everywhere-to-be-found windup train, but rather one that operated through the miracle of electricity.
The times were those of economic depression, yet Mother and Dad, through some sacrifice, presented to me on Christmas morning a beautiful electric train. For hours I operated the transformer, watching the engine first pull its cars forward, then push them backward around the track.
Mother entered the living room and told me that she had purchased a windup train for Widow Hansen’s boy Mark, who lived down the lane. I asked if I could see it. The engine was short and blocky, not long and sleek like the expensive one I had received.
However, I did take notice of the oil tanker that was part of his inexpensive set. My train had no such car, and I began to feel pangs of envy. I put up such a fuss that Mother succumbed to my pleadings and handed me the oil tanker and said, “If you need it more than Mark, you take it.” I put it with my train set and felt pleased with the result.
Mother and I took the remaining cars and the engine to the Hansens. Mark was a year or two older than I, but he had never anticipated such a gift and was thrilled beyond words. He would up his engine, and was overjoyed as the engine, two cars, and the caboose went around the track.
Then Mother glanced at me and wisely asked, “What do you think of Mark’s train, Tommy?”
I felt a keen sense of guilt as I became very much aware of my selfishness. I said to Mother, “Wait just a minute, I’ll be right back.”
As swiftly as my legs could carry me, I ran home, picked up the oil tanker plus another car of my own, ran back down the lane to the Hansen home, and said joyfully to Mark, “We forgot to bring two cars that should go with your train!”
Mark excitedly coupled the two cars to his set. I watched the engine make its labored way around the track, and as I did I felt a joy difficult to describe and impossible to forget.