In the quiet suburban parking lot of Trader Joe's the other day, another woman and I stopped and turned toward the sudden sound of a clanging railroad crossing nearby. We gazed at the flashing lights and lowering gate of the new Smart Train testing intersection and I said, "Wow, I grew up with railroad crossings, did you?"
"Yes!" she said, eyes sparkling. It was as if there had been a magical edit undo on extinct trains. We hugged each other, like crazy strangers.
And a few weeks ago a giant bookstore opened in my town and a hundred people lined up at the register, jostling for position in the check-out line. And just across the street, the boarded up single-screen movie theater is being restored. These all stop me in my tracks, with odd relief.
I'm not so codgery as to crave the days before Kindle or cars or multiplexes. It's just the idea of, well, changing lost things back. As if things precious to me could just be spruced up, restored, like a revival healing. And all would be set right.
Like moving my 92 year-old dad this week from the city, where he lived in relative isolation, to his new assisted retirement apartment. We packed for hours, setting things just so. Seeing him on his couch surrounded by antiques and art, his Sudoku and bagels in place, his TV, internet and landline finally working perfectly, I thought, we've returned his future to him. He is guaranteed to live forever now. It's all fixed.