William is 5 years and 65 days old today. He told me so on the phone this morning. He is learning how to use a calender at school. He loves to tell me about the stuff he's been learning. He knows a willing listener when he sees one. Smart boy. I am one of his greatest fans. He wants me to come over after work to play trains.
We are master train track builders we two. William has a huge love of anything related to trains and has amassed quite some collection of tracks and locomotives over his short years.
Every week we spend a happy couple of hours working on our elaborate layouts ... double switch backs, reverse direction signal points, long span bridges ... William loves using these technical words indicating that he ... we ... are in the know. A club of two. Secret railway passwords are tossed between us as a form of code. It's his way of signalling to the others and particularly to his brother that this is William & Jos time ... no trespassers please.
Trains are set in motion in precise timings so as to facilitate a crash or derailment. Then we deploy our emergency vehicles and follow a pre-set protocol of who gets rescued first and with what. It's the familiarity and repetition that William loves. He can recite exactly what is supposed to happen next and wants it to be the same as last time ... down to the very last detail.
I know how comforting the familiar is and mostly I oblige ... except I sometimes introduce some very slight variation. Not always on purpose either. Switching the signals out of sequence or neglecting to swap the points over and suddenly the trains are in different places, arriving unexpectedly at stations before the road guard gates have been lowered. Coal trains are unaccountably shunted on to the passenger line and before you know it we have total chaos.
I love to watch Williams face as these unexpected events unfold. He is the picture of concentration as he strives to bring order back onto his railway network. He issues orders and expects me to carry out my tasks promptly and without complaint. One day he is going to be an awesome manager. He juggles things mentally incredibly well for a boy of his age.
What really astounds me though is his emotional control. William is a boy of extreme emotions and is given to expressing himself fully in this regard. His tantrums are legendary even in our somewhat explosive family. But in his role as captain of the railways William becomes an altogether different boy. Calm, deliberate and incisive.
Still he is a 5 year old boy. When I arrive after work I hear him behind the door as I fumble around for my keys. He chants ... "Jos is here Jos is here Jos is here" over and over. Oliver is becoming more sophisticated in his greetings these days but William is still at the launching himself full pelt at me stage. We are all one another's number one fans.
Sometimes one or other boy asks me which one of them I love the best. "That's simple" I say ... " I love you both beyond measure". "What's measure?" Ha! You can never ask too many questions can you?
William says I'd be OK as a boy. It is the highest compliment I've ever had from him. He looks over to see if I am pleased. I am. Very.
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