Nancy Roman

I Missed The Train

The current heat wave reminds me of the first time I ever wanted to be a grown-up.

Some kids can’t wait to grow up; but not me.

I liked being a kid. I could not picture life without dolls and make-believe.  Being an adult looked awful, almost as bad as being a boy – who seemed to do nothing but pretend to shoot each other. Sure grown-ups could still swim and ride bicycles and play cards, but they didn’t seem to have much fun doing it.

I wanted to wear makeup, of course, but I didn’t see a reason why I couldn’t be a kid and wear makeup too. Makeup is part of make-believe – and that was my right as a kid.

No, I didn’t want to grow up.

Until a hot summer trip in 1962 to Washington DC.

My family traveled by train from Connecticut to Washington for my father’s military reunion.

And that train ride changed everything.

The six of us – Dad, Mom, my two older sisters, my little brother and me – were joined by my parents’ best friends and their two daughters.

My sisters were only a year apart in age, and the older of the friends’ daughters was their age too.

The younger daughter Jan was a rambunctious nine-year-old. I was eleven. I had, up to this point, always had great fun with Jan.

I had never been on a train before. The train car had seats that faced each other.  This reminded me of a stagecoach like on Bonanza and I was delighted.

My parents sat with their friends, with my little brother between Mom and Dad. The older girls quickly settled down into seats that faced a group of boys. I sat separately with Jan.

Sooner or later, an active little girl can get on the nerves of a daydreamer little girl. A seven hour train ride did it for me.

Jan was up and down and back and forth. She seemed to especially enjoy going to the ladies’ room, as if there were something enthralling about peeing on a train. She needed to visit her mother constantly. She needed a snack every ten minutes. And she wanted to sit by the window…no, the aisle…no, the window. And her method of getting past me was just to crawl over me. I had footprints on my skirt. What a baby.

And from where I sat, I could see my sisters, Christine and Claudia, with Jan’s sister Barbara. Sitting with those boys.

I hated boys.

But on the other hand, there was an awful lot of giggling going on with those boys. It seemed to me the boys even treated the girls to a soda. Like in Archie and Veronica.

I couldn’t hear their conversation. But I knew from Popeye that boys mostly liked to show their muscles to girls.  So I imagined that there was a lot of muscle demonstration going on.

And suddenly I was jealous. I wanted to sit on the train with boys. I wanted to be laughing with boys. I wanted to flirt. I wanted to be grown up like my sisters.  (who were 14 and 15.)

We saw all kinds of historic things in Washington on that trip. But I only remember the oppressive heat. And that train ride.

But I realize now that I missed my opportunity to get my wish.

For many years, I had a job which required me to take the train to New York once a week. I got to ride on the train with boys.

But all these guys had their laptops and their cell phones and their Wall Street Journals.

Where were the cokes? Where was the laughter? The flirting?

Years of riding on the train with boys and not once – NOT ONCE – did a boy show me his muscles.

I’m so disappointed. Being an adult sucks as much as I thought it did.


  1. At least the boys aren’t you showing other things on the train, either. I’ve heard that can be a problem…


    • Not on the commuter train from Connecticut to NYC. Those men are completely oblivious. I once had an gigantic heavy box on a pull-along that had to go up a flight of stairs to get to the northbound side of the track. Lots of muscly mena around, but the box was apparently invisible.


  2. lol – being grown up is a pain, isn’t it?


  3. I’m not sure you would really have wanted to see the muscles of men who commute from DC to NY or vice versa..You and I were probably on the same train car at some point, and from my vantage point, the guys looked better concentrating on their computers fully clothed. 🙂


  4. I love your illustrations so much! They are always the cherry on top of a wonderful post sundae.


    • Thanks! The more I draw, the easier it gets (which makes it a lot more fun).


  5. My first attempt at being an adult happened around age 8. I tried to stay awake for the ride home from a picnic. Adults never napped in the car (and they shouldn’t especially if driving!) so I thought that was one of the rites of passage. I lasted 3 minutes before I keeled over from tiredness. I thought boys were grody for a long time….until the estrogen bug bit me. I also thought they smelled bad. I think you had it right the first time. I never try to be an adult now. Too boring. (except for makeup of course)


    • I always thought the boys smelled bad. Why, I even remember student teaching back in college. I was already in my mid-twenties, but those grammar school boys I was teaching still smelled bad.


  6. Hilarious. Like you, I never wanted to grow up.

    Aren’t you glad we never really did?

    Great post.



    • Very. Except for the makeup. I am happy for makeup.


  7. Unlike you, I very much wanted to be a grown up very early in life. Well except for make-up which I never had much use for, except for that evil Disco period of time (oh my). It wasn’t the boy thing though, it was simply to accomplish a very specific goal. To sit in my own seat on trains and planes away from obnoxious siblings, cousins and other intrusions with a good book. That was all, just that; oh, and less milk in my coffee.

    Excellent as always, as for muscles you didn’t miss anything those boys with their laptops likely had less than you.


  8. What a great story, and it makes me wonder about when i had such thoughts.. I honestly cannot remember.. my mum was sick a lot when we were kids so i was little mother.. which i quite liked because then i could boss the others around!! c


    • As the third girl, I only got to boss my little brother… and then I had to wait in line.


  9. Children want to be grown up and adults want to be kids again. Wouldn’t it be great if life was reversed and we got younger instead of older?


  10. carolcovin

    Love your illustrations! When I was a little girl, I could not figure out why women didn’t have bruises and scrapes up and down their legs like I did. I actually didn’t know when I got the bruises; I was just going about my normal day and they appeared. But, I must admit, I don’t climb fences as often now as I used to:) Great post.


    • Yeah, whatever happened to scabby knees and elbows?


  11. LOL! Love this. That picture is priceless. And I’m with ya – way overrated!

    Oh and you could go to any gas station in NJ if you want someone to show you his muscles. I swear it’s the most obnoxious place for a woman. Yesterday the attendant (since we’re not trusted to pump our own gas here) insinuated that I didn’t work because it was the middle of the day (er, we call that a lunch break, mister!), and then said I must be a secretary. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but he couldn’t fathom a woman doing anything else. Then he told me my favorite color was teal. I suspect he was about to ask me to cook him dinner.


  12. It’s always nice to read your memories. My class rode a train from Williamsburg to Richmond when I was in 7th grade. We toured a large bakery, a museum, and (believe it or not), a tobacco factory. What I remember the most was the seats on the train facing each other.
    Love your illustrations; I’m envious of your drawing talent.


    • Ahh, we’re even then, as I am envious of your photography talent.


  13. I’m not much interested in the whole adult thing, way too much bill paying not enough playing.


    • I remember just starting my first job, and having my car break down and needing a root canal and having no money. I went crying to my mother and instead of sympathy, she said, “Ha-ha! Welcome to adulthood!”


      • carolcovin

        Thanks, Mom. I remember when I suspected I was pregnant, went to live near my boyfriend a few days before he was going to have to report for the draft, found out I was pregnant, we eloped and I called my Mom to tell her we’d just gotten married. Her response? “Guess this means you’re pregnant.” He left for the Army 2 days later. We’re still married 44 years later.


  14. I remember wanting to be grown up. Then I was grown up I wondered why I wanted to be grown up so badly. Now I am ditzy–grown up–but not too…


  15. The grass is always greener in someone else’s compartment. Good luck finding Mr. Universe on the commuter train. Love your drawings!


  16. i want a boy to show me his muscles! on a train! yeah. that’s the adulthood i’m waiting for.


  17. Michelle Gillies

    The train is a magical place. My first train ride was across Canada and it was wonderful. I know I was just a kid when I boarded that train but I came back all grown up. Well, at least I thought so. After all I was a seasoned traveler now! 😉


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