I’ve been thinking about issues of scale recently. I am working on a 10-story office building at work and when you’ve looked at lines on paper for a long time you forget about the massive scale of the real building. For children this baffling sense of scale is a daily occurrence. Some things are just too enormous to comprehend. I had this experience when visiting Titan, the largest truck in the world. It’s hard to think of a truck you can walk under without stooping, a truck whose tires are small building size and the cab is almost impossibly distant. When you think of a dump truck you don’t imagine you can fit two city buses in the bed, but that’s Titan. Your mind has trouble making sense of such a thing. I’ll let you imagine this until tomorrow when I provide a picture of Titan. In the meantime we come down to child’s level. Here we see Number Two sitting on the front of a locomotive.
No, it’s not whizzing across the prairie toward a blown-out bridge, it’s at rest at our small town’s charming railroad depot museum. It’s only open a few hours on the weekend and I took Child Harbat there when she was about the same age. We clambered around inside the train cars and were led around the depot by a volunteer who was absolutely thrilled to have someone willing to listen about semaphore signs and mail sacks and telegraph lines. The train consists of a small cabin car, a cargo car, and the locomotive, on which Number Two sat warily. But how does the young mind reconcile the small wooden train toys you can hold in your hand with the massive black steel thing that obscures the horizon? When you’ve moved trains around over little wooden tracks, can you comprehend wheels taller than yourself and a locomotive that takes grappling and scrabbling to climb up? I find myself fascinated to visit seemingly everyday things with Number Two and watch him try to fit it in his understanding of the world. In this case the train was simply too big to be interesting, though he did like my chug-a-chug noises. Here we see him running off to do what he really loves, pushing the stroller around in unpredictable routes on the sidewalk, like a Roomba that bumps off obstacles without the gift of sight or the frustration of error. Goodbye train, hello stroller.