June 26, 2013 —
School’s out for the summer, and it starts to show on the Port Jervis train around early June, when the college kids return. Early July, the trains are carrying families up for a summer visit with Grandma and Grandpa, some for weekend stays, others for longer “parent mental health” days.
Parents dropping their children off for a longer stay are a dead giveaway. The kids drag their huge suitcases and have their backpacks with their worldly possessions (electronic devices), while Mom (it’s usually Mom bringing them) has an overnight bag. The other giveaway is the calming smile on Mom’s face as she stares out the window and dreams of some quiet time at home. It will be two long months till she has this smile again—when school starts. (Think Staples’ back-to-school commercial.)
On one particular trip the six-seater behind me was filled with luggage, kids and Mom. The two boys were particularly rambunctious, and after hearing them scolded for the umpteenth time, I pulled out my headphones and iPad to block them out for the rest of the trip. I have downloaded a couple of my favorite TV shows to watch from time to time. The reception is spotty for streaming video, so I have a couple of episodes of the History Channel and “Shark Week,” my fave.
I used to vacation on the shore in Wildwood, NJ, when my kids were little. This was before “Shark Week” was on TV; back then the shark of all sharks was (play the appropriate music) “Jaws.” Every summer, before the vacation I would make sure we watched that classic, this kept the kids in my sight and up only to their knees in the surf at all times. Parenting can be a challenge at times, but it also comes with a few perks.
On the train, in order to block the riot going on behind me, I chose the episode “Top Five Eaten,” stories of people bitten by sharks. (They lived to tell the tale.) Well, unknown to me, “Little Johnny” was watching over my shoulder just as a camera man was bitten standing in knee deep water. The second camera kept running as they carried him out of the water with his calf hanging off dripping with flesh and blood. Then came the scream —and it was not from my headset but from “Little Johnny;” the image scared the crap out of him and he was in tears. The next thing Mom was yelling at me asking what I had done. I simply held up the iPad and said, “Sorry, ‘Shark Week.’”
Things settled down after “Little Johnny” got scolded (again) and soon we were pulling into Port Jervis. The family gathered their luggage to drag off the train to the arms of waiting grandparents. As they left, I did have a little smirk on my face thinking of my kids and that I may just have helped that mom keep “Little Johnny” close to shore this summer.