crossing the tracks

Pick up your feet.

Hold your breath.

Cross your fingers, if there’s time, just for luck.

This was our ritual when I was young. Every time the car we were riding in crossed the railroad tracks, we made a wish. Every time, and always. No exceptions. Then we waited, tentatively, hopefully. Could it come true?

I wished for new clothes, a fun trip, a good grade on a test. Or for a certain boy to like me, for my best friend to ask me to spend the night, for a new pair of cute shoes. I wished that I wouldn’t really have to clean my room right when I got home, or for my grandmother to have chocolate cookies when we got to her house, or for summer to last one more week before we had to go back to school.

So long ago… How many wishes came true? Who knows, but more than my share, I’m sure. And others, thank goodness, never materialized. Sometimes our childhood wishes and teenage dreams are picture perfect, and sometimes they are somewhat misguided. Luckily, the railroad track ritual wasn’t always a guarantee.

There don’t seem to be as many railroad crossings these days. And maybe I feel like now I need to be more the master of my own fate – no time to be wasted on wishing, when there’s doing to be done.

But if I could still lift both feet, hold my breath, and cross my fingers just for good luck, what would I wish for now? Definitely a big dose of happiness for my family and friends. Dreams fulfilled for those I love. A little more money would be nice. Certainly good health would make the cut, too.  But the necessities are already surrounding me.

So the next time I cross the tracks I think I’ll try going through the motions, but in place of greedy wishes, I’ll whisper my gratitude instead.

11 thoughts on “crossing the tracks

  1. Jaana says:

    Wonderful reflection! From wishes and wants to gratefulness..we are growing up, right?

  2. This is a really sweet memory. We didn’t do this at railroad tracks, but began making wishes (& holding our breath) when we drove through tunnels (there are several in the Rockies). That was with my own children & my students; I wonder if they remember? I too love that you thought through the memory & came to wishes today, that ended with gratitude. A lovely way to hold the memory, but change it in your life now. (We have to travel to a different part of town to find the tracks, BTW. You’re right-no tracks in the edges.)

  3. Dana says:

    Oh I remember doing that! And going through tunnels we always had to hold our breath too. I live right by the railroad tracks – now when i pass over them, I’ll think of this reflection and something I appreciate. Loved your last paragraph.

  4. Lynn says:

    Great idea…whisper your gratitude… I love that…we should all do this more often!

  5. Tracks of Gratitude! I love it! Crossing over the tracks will never be the same again. I cross them somewhere almost everytime I drive. The surrounding towns are railroad track rich! Thanks for sharing-I guess I’ll be sipping a strong dose of gratitude as I drive from now on!

  6. Tara says:

    I love the way you opened this slice….you took us right into a child’s view of that little ritual we all had to try and guarantee us good fortune.

  7. There is a tenderness in this reflective piece of writing that resonates with me as a reader. With time and the wisdom that living brings, we frequently re-assess what we truly want from life and the wishes we hold close to our hearts. Simple pleasures tend to sustain us. I love the inside voice that emerged in this piece too.

    • When I revise this piece I would love to add some of your words – “with time and the wisdom that living brings” “the wishes we hold close to our hearts” and “simple pleasures tend to sustain us.” thank you for the wisdom that your writing experience brings, and for your encouragement.

  8. Peg D says:

    Love the ritual! I heard once that if you look at the clock and it’s 11:11 then angels are watching. Every time I see it I say a quick prayer of thanks. I like the way you’ve changed wishes to gratitude. Nicely done.

  9. I love how you moved for wishing for things to giving gratitude. It’s a wonderful image that I know will stay with me when I cross the tracks or go through a tunnel. I once, long ago, wrote a children’s book (not oublished) about making wishes as children went over the railroad tracks – perhaps this is why it did not get published!

  10. luckygurl says:

    Aaaaah! I wasn’t ready for that poignant ending! Such a sweet memory. This writing sings with small details… It’s the kind of writing that makes me want to go write!! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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