It was all my fault.
I had booked a spring break trip for
My son and his dad:
The Amtrak train from St. Paul to Chicago
And a sleeper car from Chicago to Washington D.C.
My ex, who lives in another country,
Hadn’t seen his son since July
And I stoked my son up for weeks about the
He and his dad
Would take on the
“Long distance train” to Washington D.C.
The Internet says the train is four hours late arriving to St. Paul,
So we sleep in and I call Amtrak at 10 a.m., two hours after the
Original departure time,
Thinking we’ll have plenty of time to get to the station.
“You wasn’t at the station?” the Amtrak rep says.
“Uh-oh. Amtrak sent a bus instead.
Left at 7:50 a.m.”
Phone pressed to my hot face,
I look down at my son,
Who is dancing a little jig and chanting,
“Long distance train!”
And my ex-husband,
Who is listening to my half of the conversation and,
Registering what happened,
Doing that thing he does when he’s disgusted:
A one-sided head-shake,
More of a twitch.
I look at the clock:
It’s 10:30 a.m. and the sleeper car leaves Chicago at 6:40 p.m.
“What you gonna do?” asks the Amtrak rep, rhetorically.
“Yeah, I gotta figure that out,” I say, and hang up.
“I’ll get you to Chicago,” I say to my ex. “Alright? Just, everyone relax.”
Internet search for one-way plane tix to Chicago leaving within two hours:
Gas in the Camry for the 800-mile round trip:
“We could drive. We have time,” I say to my ex.
“Really?” he says, softening. “It could be an adventure…”
“Long distance train!” yells our son.
The ex and I look at each other.
“Let’s do it.”
We load up in the car and are pulling into the alley within five minutes.
And as we pull out,
Who has no idea this isn’t part of the original plan,
“I’m excited to go on the long distance train!”
And his dad and I laugh.
Seven hours in the car with my ex.
I had thought we might have
About our son:
Where he’ll be going to school,
Here with me in America,
Or there in Finland with him?
That’s our albatross.
But it feels right to just
Wisconsin roll by on a
Foggy, late-winter, early-spring Sunday.
Victor has so much to talk about,
So many questions,
From his little throne in the
Middle of the back seat,
Any conversation his dad and I start is
Immediately interrupted with queries about
How earthquakes work,
What trains are made of,
What happens when cars crash,
And so on.
We arrive in Chicago,
And I walk the two in:
The huge father and his small son
Clutching his rainbow blanket and his
“Is this where the long distance train is?”
I squeeze the boy against my leg,
And father and son move off into the secure area
(Train stations have them, too, I guess)
And I stop them to take a picture.
“Have fun you guys,” I call,
And then go back out to my car for the
I checked my voicemail on Monday night.
There were a bunch of messages from the weekend,
Numbers I didn’t recognize
So I didn’t listen to the messages.
A 1-800 number from Saturday.
This is an important message from Amtrak.
You have a scheduled departure from
St. Paul to Chicago on
Sunday, March 20.
That trip has been canceled due to
A chartered bus will leave the train station at
We are sorry for the inconvenience.”
You’re a good mom (and ex-wife) Jen!
I love your stories … so bittersweet.